Light drinkers consuming an average of less than one drink per day across their lifetime have the lowest risk of mortality and developing cancers.
Even light-to-moderate levels of alcohol intake have previously been linked to increased cancer risk.
At the same time, research has demonstrated a “J-shaped” risk curve relating alcohol intake to all-cause mortality, suggesting some protective effect of light-to-moderate drinking, particularly for death from cardiovascular disease.
During the study, conducted by Andrew Kunzmann of Queen’s University Belfast, 9,559 deaths and 12,763 primary cancers occurred among the participants.
The expected J-shaped relationship between overall mortality and alcohol consumption was seen: in comparison to lifetime light alcohol drinkers (1-3 drinks per week), lifetime never or infrequent drinkers (<1 drink/week), as well as heavy (2-<3drinks/day) and very heavy drinkers (3+ drinks/day) had increased overall mortality.
The authors said, “This study provides further insight into the complex relationship between alcohol consumption, cancer incidence, and disease mortality and may help inform public health guidelines.”
The analysis is limited to older adults and may be confounded by socioeconomic factors, and the findings should not be taken to support a protective effect of light drinking, the author’s caution.
The study is published in the journal PLOS Medicine.
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