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Does alcohol increase colorectal cancer risk?

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Updated: August 30, 2006

Photo by Marcao (flickr.com) Photo by Marcao (flickr.com)

Question: Does alcohol increase colorectal cancer risk?

Answer: Research has indicated that alcohol increases colorectal cancer risk. Research has also shown that it lowers it, or that it has no effect at all. So which is right? All of it may be. The key appears to be what kind of alcohol you're drinking.

Beer

A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that people who drank more than one beer a day were more likely to develop colorectal cancer than non-beer drinkers. Another study (published in the journal Gut) provided more details, adding that drinking beer didn't impact colon cancer risk, but could increase rectal cancer risk. The researchers determined that drinking one beer a day more than doubled the risk of developing rectal cancer.

Spirits

If you like spirits, you're not going to like this. And if you don't know what spirits are, they're drinks like gin, bourbon, and vodka. A study published in the journal Gut found that drinking two glasses of spirits a day more than doubled the risk of developing rectal cancer. Think doubling your risk is bad? Researchers at Stony Brook University determined that drinking nine or more servings of spirits a week on a regular basis tripled colon cancer risk.

Wine

The same researchers who reported that spirits could triple colon cancer risk, also determined that drinking a glass or two of wine each week could decrease colon cancer risk by as much as 60%.

Related Research: Sources:
  1. Anderson, J. and Alpern, Z. "Prevalence and Risk of Colorectal Neoplasia in Consumers of Alcohol in a Screening Population." The American Journal of Gastroenterology 100.9 (Sep. 2005): 2049-2055. Blackwell Synergy. 24 Aug. 2006.
  2. Boggs, Will. Beer and Spirits Boost Colorectal Tumor Risk. CancerPage. 20 Sep. 2005. 24 Aug. 2006 [http://www.cancerpage.com/news/article.asp?id=8839].
  3. Laino, Charlene. Spirits Raise Colon Cancer Risk. WebMD. 15 Oct. 2003. 24 Aug. 2006 [http://www.webmd.com/content/article/75/89702.htm].
  4. Pedersen, A. and Johansen, C. "Relations Between Amount and Type of Alcohol and Colon and Rectal Cancer in a Danish Population Based Cohort Study." Gut 52 (2003): 861-867. 24 Aug. 2006 [http://gut.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/abstract/52/6/861].

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