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Study claims alcohol-cancer link in older women

By staff reporter , 13-Sep-2007

Postmenopausal women who consume two or more alcoholic beverage a day may double their risk of developing endometrial cancer, say researchers in the first prospective study to report a significant association.

High alcohol consumption has already been associated with liver disease and breast cancer. The findings of a new epidemiological study published in the International Journal of Cancer indicate that lifestyle choices could have a part to play in mitigating risk of endometrial cancer too. Endometrial cancer affects the lining of the womb or uterus. According to the National Cancer Institute, which funded the new study, it is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, accounting for around six per cent of all cancers in women. However due to the symptoms, it is often identified early on and therefore results in fewer deaths than cervical or ovarian cancer. The study used data from the 1993 Multiethnic Cohort Study which involved followed 41,574 postmenopausal women of several ethnicities for eight years, beginning in 1993. Alcohol intake data was gathered by a questionnaire at baseline, when other endometrial cancer risk factors were also established. Not only did the researchers find that the women who drank two or more alcoholic drinks a day were at a significantly higher risk of developing the cancer, but a particularly strong association was found with overweight or obese women. Lead researcher Veronica Wendy Setiawan, assistant professor of preventative medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, noted that previous studies have seen a link between high alcohol consumption and higher levels of oestrogen in postmenopausal women. She said this could be the mechanism by which alcohol increases endometrial cancer risk. Following through on this theory, the higher incidence in overweight and obese women could be due to them having incidentally higher levels of oestrogen than their lean counterparts. This could mask elevations caused by alcohol as an independent risk factor. Setiawan stressed that the findings of the epidemiological study are only preliminary, and more research is needed before firm recommendations can be made. Nonetheless, she said that women - particularly those who are beyond their reproductive years - must be aware of the effects of high alcohol consumption. Source: International Journal of Cancer (early online) DOI: 10.1002/ijc.23072 Title: Alcohol consumption and endometrial cancer risk: The multiethnic cohort Authors: Veronica Wendy Setiawan, Kristine R Monroe, Marc Goodman, Laurence Kolonel, Malcolm C Pike, Brian E Henderson

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