Light Drinking Might Increase the Risk of Cancer

Maybe this news will kill you. Maybe you should just pour another round.

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With the caveat up high that this is merely an observational study, The BMJ would like us to believe our worst nightmares have come true: Drinking is bad for you. More specifically, the link between alcohol consumption and cancer may be stronger than previously recognized, the BBC reports. We already knew that heavy drinking increased cancer risk, especially for smokers, but the new study (by Yin Cao, Walter C. Willett, Eric B. Rimm, Meir J. Stampfer, and Edward L. Giovannucci) finds light and moderate drinkers are at risk, too.

The study defines “light to moderate drinking” as less than 15 grams of alcohol per day for women (a small glass of wine) and less than 30 grams of alcohol per day for men (two 12-ounce bottles of beer). Men who are light drinkers saw greater cancer risk, though it was only considerably higher only for those men who also smoked. The study did find that even women who have never smoked are more vulnerable to cancer — breast cancer, in particular — by having one drink per day.

The study’s findings aren’t great news for the beer-after-work drinkers of the world (i.e., “workers”). But do take the findings with a grain of salt. As Dr. Jurgen Rehm of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto writes in an accompanying editorial, the study could not control for confounding variables such as genes and family history. Cao et al.’s study should not be completely disregarded, but quitting drinking would be the only step beyond light consumption, which is already a compromise for some.

You also might get cancer from orange juice, so spiking for a morning screwdriver can’t hurt you that much more. And, for some reason, the study restricts men to drinking beer and women to wine. Drink at your own peril, gender be damned.

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