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Avoiding Alcohol May Cut Risk for Esophageal Cancer

MONDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Chronic drinkers who stop consuming alcohol can cut their risk for esophageal cancer in half within four to five years, according to a new evidence review.

In the analysis of nine studies, Swedish researchers found drinkers' risk of this type of cancer is reversible if they stop drinking, but it takes them up to 16 years to return to the risk level of people who don't drink.

The study by researchers at Lund University appeared in a recent issue of the journal Addiction, and included an outside commentary by a group including Boston University Medical Center researchers that found the new research "well done."

The study, however, may not have accounted enough for other factors, such as the interaction of smoking and drinking on cancer risk, according to a university news release.

Previous studies show that reducing cancer among non-smokers may be achieved with cutting back on the consumption of alcohol to moderate levels rather than quitting entirely, according to the news release. Low-level regular alcohol intake has been shown to have beneficial health effects on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other medical conditions.

Aside from alcohol, other factors that can affect the risk of developing esophageal cancer, according to the release, include:

  • Esophageal cancer is more common in men.
  • Esophageal cancer occurs most commonly in people over 45 years old.
  • The longer people smoke, the greater their risk.
  • Not eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables is linked to an increased risk of the cancer.
  • Being overweight is associated with a higher risk.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about the link between alcohol and cancer.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Boston University Medical Center, news release, Sept. 13, 2012

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