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Heavy drinking raises death risk from cancer

Overall, the findings add to the evidence that alcohol consumption, in particular, heavy alcohol intake, is an independent risk factor for pancreatic cancer.

Heavy drinking raises death risk from cancer

Heavy drinkers have a high risk of dying from pancreatic cancer. In fact, people who never smoke, a known risk factor for the disease, but who have three or more drinks of hard liquor a day face a 36 percent higher risk of dying from pancreatic cancer, compared with non-drinker.

Alcoholic beverage consumption - a modifiable lifestyle factor - is causally related to several cancers, including oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colo-rectum and female breast. Heavy alcohol consumption causes acute and chronic pancreatitis but has never been linked definitively to pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers. Often, by the time symptoms appear, the cancer is in an advanced stage and spreading rapidly. To make matters worse, the disease is also hard to treat. Survival chances with pancreatic cancer are not very good with the overall five-year survival rate being less than 5 percent. And these figures haven't really changed in the past 30 years.

Although a number of epidemiological studies have examined the association between alcohol and risk of pancreatic cancer, most were too small to tease out the effects of smoking from that of alcohol since people who drink alcohol are also more like to smoke. In this study, the researchers were able to examine the association between alcohol intake and pancreatic cancer mortality in never-smokers, and across range of daily intake. Researchers collected data on more than a million men and women who took part in the Cancer Prevention Study II in America. Over 24 years of follow-up, 6,847 of these people died from pancreatic cancer.

Among people who had never smoked there was a 36 percent risk of death from pancreatic cancer for those who drank three or more servings of liquor a day compared with non-drinkers. This association appeared to be only with liquor intake, and not with beer or wine intake. Reasons for the differences by beverage type are unclear, but might be due to a higher amount of alcohol actually consumed in a single drink of liquor compared to wine or beer.

Overall, the findings add to the evidence that alcohol consumption, in particular, heavy alcohol intake, is an independent risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
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