Alcohol consumption significantly increases risk for injury, cancer
Researchers from McMaster University in Canada discovered that overall, alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk for injury and alcohol-related cancers, and heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk for death. However, the combined risk of negative outcomes increased in low-income countries, but decreased in high-income countries.
“Alcohol use might have been less common in middle-income and low-income countries, but its risks were more pronounced because adults in such countries who drank were more likely to engage in the riskiest pattern of drinking: infrequent consumption of large quantities of spirits,” Jason P. Connor, PhD, associate professor of clinical and health psychiatry at the University of Queensland, Australia, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study. “This pattern is much more harmful to health than is more frequent consumption of smaller quantities of wine, the pattern that is most common among middle-aged men in high-income countries.”
The researchers surveyed 114,970 participants aged 35 to 70 years who were enrolled in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. The participants were followed for a median of 4.3 years to assess the relationship between alcohol use and clinical outcomes — including stroke, cancer, death, injury, MI, hospitalization and cardiovascular disease. Participants were from 12 countries that were classified into four income groups: High, high-middle, low-middle and low.
Overall, 31% of the participants reported current drinking. Overall, the researchers found that current drinking was associated with a 24% reduced risk of myocardial infarction. However, drinking was associated with a 29% increased risk of injury and 51% increased risk of alcohol-related cancers, including neck, head, mouth, liver, stomach, colorectal and esophageal cancer.
The researchers also found that heavy episodic alcohol consumption, defined as consuming — five drinks or more at one time at least once per month, was associated with a 54% increased risk of death. High intake of alcohol, defined as more than 14 drinks a week for women and more than 21 drinks a week for men, was associated with a 31% increased risk of death.
When looking at outcomes by country income level, the researchers found that drinking was associated with a 16% reduced risk for all studied outcomes among high-income participants. However, for participants from lower-income countries, the researchers found that drinking was associated with a 38% increased risk for all outcomes.
“More than sufficient evidence is available for government to give increased public health priority to reducing alcohol-related disease burden in low-income and middle-income countries,” Connor wrote. “This should be done by implementing the most effective population policies to discourage harmful drinking — namely, increasing the price of alcohol and reducing its availability, especially to younger drinkers, and preventing the alcohol industry from promotion of frequent drinking to intoxication.” – by Will Offit
Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.