Even moderate alcohol consumption puts you at heightened risk of cancer, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Otago found drinking alcohol increases the risk of several types of cancer, and was responsible for 236 cancer deaths under 80 years of age in New Zealand in 2012.
Alcohol-related cancers include breast and bowel cancer, two of the most common causes of cancer death in New Zealand, but also cancer of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus, larynx and liver.
Lead author Professor Jennie Connor says the findings about breast cancer were particularly sobering.
"About 60 percent of all alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in New Zealand women are from breast cancer. We estimated 71 breast cancer deaths in 2007 and 65 in 2012 were due to drinking, and about a third of these were associated with drinking less than two drinks a day on average.
"Although risk of cancer is much higher in heavy drinkers, there are fewer of them, and many alcohol-related breast cancers occur in women who are drinking at levels that are currently considered acceptable," says Prof Connor.
She wants to see strategies to reduce alcohol consumption across the population.
"While these alcohol-attributable cancer deaths are only 4.2 percent of all cancer deaths under 80, what makes them so significant is that we know how to avoid them."
The research, in collaboration with the Global Burden of Disease Alcohol Group, has just been published in the international journal Drug and Alcohol Review.