Booze could raise cancer risk
A study involving Hawaii finds greater risk of endometrial cancer in post-menopausal women
An average of two or more alcoholic drinks a day may double the risk of endometrial cancer for post-menopausal women, a study of Hawaii and Los Angeles women indicates.
People were concerned about the risks of alcohol consumption for endometrial cancer because it does affect breast cancer, said Dr. Laurence Kolonel of the University of Hawaii Cancer Research Center.
"We know any amount of drinking increases risk (of breast cancer), even one drink a day," he said.
Unlike for breast cancer, however, he said moderate drinking doesn't seem to increase the risk for endometrial cancer. Researchers didn't see any risk until women got up to an average of two or more drinks a day, he said.
The endometrium is the lining of the uterus or womb.
The findings were drawn from a Multiethnic Cohort Study, an epidemiological study of more than 215,000 people in Hawaii and Los Angeles.
The cohort was created in 1993 by Kolonel, Cancer Research Center deputy director and program director for epidemiology, and Dr. Brian Henderson, dean of the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.
Researchers followed 41,574 post-menopausal African-American, Japanese-American, Latina, native Hawaiian and white women in Hawaii and Los Angeles for about eight years.
A baseline questionnaire provided information on alcohol intake and endometrial cancer risk factors.
Endometrial cancer forms in the tissue lining of the uterus. It is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, accounting for about 6 percent of all cancers in women, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The study suggested a stronger association between alcohol consumption and endometrial cancer among lean women than overweight or obese post-menopausal women, the researchers reported.
"Previous studies have shown that alcohol consumption has been associated with higher levels of estrogens in post-menopausal women, which could be the mechanism by which daily alcohol intake increases one's risk of endometrial cancer," Veronica Wendy Setiawan, Keck School of Medicine assistant professor of preventive medicine, said in an online Science Daily report.
Setiawan said it's important for women, especially post-menopausal women, to understand the consequences of high alcohol consumption. "It does not affect just the liver, but alcohol has been associated with breast cancer and now endometrial cancer."
Henderson, senior author of the paper, appearing online and in the International Journal of Cancer, said, "This discovery is important as it suggests that changes to certain lifestyle choices may potentially help alter risk of the disease.
"However, these findings are preliminary and must be investigated further before any recommendations about alcohol consumption can be made."
In an interview, Kolonel said most studies linking alcohol and cancer don't seem to implicate any certain beverage. Red wine, containing flavonoids, is reported to have health benefits.
"It is really a balancing act," he said.
The risk of heart disease is lower for women who consume an average of one alcoholic drink per day, Kolonel said. "If you go over that, adverse effects outweigh benefits. For cancer ... any amount of alcohol consumption carries some risk."