Light drinking is associated with an increase in the risk of certain cancers, say researchers.
Recently a meta-analysis compares the effects between light drinkers (an average reported intake of up to 1 typical drink/day) versus "non-drinkers" in terms of relative risks for a number of types of cancer.
The researchers concluded that while the risk of these cancers was only slightly increased from such drinking, there were detectable increases in cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, esophagus and female breast. They report no increase in the risk of cancers of the colorectum, liver, and larynx to be associated with such drinking.
Forum reviewers were also concerned that despite the acknowledged limitations of their data, the researchers present conclusions indicating that even light drinking increases the risk of certain cancers without commenting on the net health effects.
They present only the effects on cancer (which was the topic of the meta-analysis) but do not comment on the overall or net health effects of light drinking: a marked reduction in the risk of much more common diseases, especially cardiovascular diseases, and a longer lifespan.
Further, the lack of data on genetic patterns, folate intake, and other lifestyle factors makes it difficult to apply their findings to individual subjects.
The Forum considers that while their analyses may be helpful in understanding associations between alcohol and cancer, the many limitations of this study indicate that it can provide only incomplete information on light alcohol consumption to be used as a basis for making recommendations to the public.
The study was published in the Annals of Oncology.