Booze and Family History of Colon Cancer a Bad Mix: Study

FRIDAY Feb. 3, 2012 -- People who consume a few alcoholic drinks a day and have a family history of colorectal cancer are at increased risk for developing colon cancer, new research suggests.

For the study, researchers in Boston examined data from more than 87,000 women in the Nurses' Health Study and 47,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and found that 1,801 cases of colon cancer were diagnosed among the participants from 1980 onward.

People with a family history of colorectal cancer who drank an average of 30 or more grams of alcohol per day (about 2.5 typical drinks in the United States) were at increased risk for colon cancer, according to lead author Eunyoung Cho, of the Channing Laboratory, department of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and colleagues.

Those at greatest risk also ate the most red meat, smoked more and consumed the least folate, which suggests they ate fewer green vegetables and cereal. The findings indicate that other lifestyle factors, such as diet, play an important role in colon cancer risk, the researchers said.

Although the study uncovered an association between these factors and colon cancer risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

Among people who did not have a family history of colorectal cancer, no significant association was found between alcohol consumption and colon cancer. Greater alcohol intake was not associated with a consistent increase in cancer risk, the authors noted in a news release from Boston University Medical Center.

The study was published in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about colorectal cancer.

Posted: February 2012


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