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Alcohol and cancer

Tuesday 28 September, 2021

In our 2017 newsletter we told you about Dr Harindra Jayasekara’s research aiming to clarify the connections between alcohol consumption and cancer. We know that alcohol can be a cause of cancer, but there is much to learn about its influence on different types of cancer, and at different periods in a person’s life.

Dr Jayasekara and colleagues have continued their research in this field, having recently published two papers.

In the first paper (1), the researchers used Health 2020 data from nearly 10,000 cancer survivors to study the role of drinking habits on the development of second primary cancers (see text box 1).

The researchers found that a lifetime pattern of heavy drinking is associated with the increased risk of second primary cancers of the bowel, head and neck, and kidney.

These findings can help us prevent subsequent cancers in cancer survivors by moderating alcohol consumption.

The second paper (2) looked at the link between alcohol consumption and risk of stomach cancer.

The researchers pooled data from Health 2020 and another large study (EPIC - the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study). The researchers found no association overall. However, when they looked more closely, they found an association between long-term, heavy drinking (equivalent to 6 standard drinks per day) and non-cardia stomach cancer (see text box 2).

These findings support the view that cardia and non-cardia stomach cancers are different in their features and risk factors.

Text Box 1: Second Primary Cancers
About 1 of every 20 people is a cancer survivor. With more people surviving cancer (a good thing), we see more people having a second cancer diagnosed in their lifetime that isn’t connected to their first diagnosis. These are known as ‘second primary cancers’ or ‘metachronous cancers.’

 

Text Box 2 : Stomach cancer sub-types
The cardia is the area where the oesophagus (food pipe) connects to the stomach. Nearly two-thirds of stomach cancers are found in the rest of the stomach (non-cardia cancers).


References:

  1. Jayasekara H, Hodge AM, Haydon A, Room R, Hopper JL, English DR, et al. Pre-diagnosis alcohol intake and metachronous cancer risk in cancer survivors: a prospective cohort study. Int J Cancer. 2021. 2.
  2. Jayasekara H, MacInnis RJ, Lujan-Barroso L, Mayen-Chacon AL, Cross AJ, Wallner B, et al. Lifetime alcohol intake, drinking patterns over time and risk of stomach cancer: A pooled analysis of data from two prospective cohort studies. Int J Cancer. 2021;148(11):2759-73.