Alcoholics More Likely to Die of Cancer: Study

TUESDAY Nov. 15, 2011 -- Alcoholics have a higher rate of death from cancer and other causes than other people, a new study finds.

Italian researchers examined data on nearly 2,300 male and female alcoholics who were treated at the Alcohol Center of Florence between 1985 and 2001.

They found a higher rate of death among alcoholics than among the general population for multiple types of cancers, particularly cancers of the pharynx, oral cavity, liver and larynx. Risk of death from cancer of the esophagus, rectum, pancreas and breast was also heightened among alcoholics.

Alcoholics were also more likely to die of infections, diabetes, violent crimes and diseases of the immunological, nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive systems.

The findings appear online and in the February 2012 print issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Our study has provided strong evidence that alcohol addiction significantly increases the risk of death from several causes in comparison to the general population in a Mediterranean country...," corresponding author Domenico Palli, head of the nutritional and molecular epidemiology unit at the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute in Florence, said in a journal news release. "Alcohol's role as a 'dietary' carcinogen emerged quite clearly."

The researchers also found that female alcoholics had higher survival rates than male alcoholics, possibly because women are more likely to get help for alcoholism, Palli said.

Alcohol consumption causes about 4 percent of all deaths and 5 percent of all diseases worldwide, according to background information in the news release.

"Clearly alcohol abuse can compromise the structure and functionality of several human organs, thus directly increasing the risk of death," Palli concluded. "Other aspects of the characteristic lifestyle of alcoholics -- smoking, drug abuse, promiscuity and a poor diet -- may contribute to this high-risk pattern together with reduced health-consciousness."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about alcohol and health.

Posted: November 2011


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