Study: Obesity, Alcohol Heighten Risk Of Esophageal Cancer

August 02, 2016

As a New Zealand expert’s perspective piece last week in the journal Addiction on the demonstrated link between alcohol and cancer was somehow interpreted as a newsworthy new study, an actual study found new concerns about alcohol, obesity and cancer.

The study estimated one-third of esophageal cancer cases in the United States, about 5,600 annually, were preventable by maintaining a healthy weight and abstaining from alcohol.

The new report, released July 28, suggested that each five-point increase in Body Mass Index increases risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma by 48 percent. (An estimated 60 percent of esophageal cancer cases in the country are adenocarcinomas.) BMI, a measure of body fat based on height and weight, considers normal weight results between 18.5 and 24.9. A person with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. Example: A 5-foot-9 person who weighs 204 pounds has a BMI of 30.1.


Similarly, researchers say every 10 grams of alcohol consumed daily – about a glass of wine or beer – corresponds to a 25 percent increase in the risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

The report, released July 28 by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute of Cancer Research, reviewed 46 studies involving 15 million adults – among them 31,000 who developed esophageal cancer.

"These findings add to the evidence that lifestyle plays a powerful role in cancer risk,” said Alice Bender, the AICR’s head of nutrition programs, in a news release. “Obesity is now linked to 11 types of cancer and alcohol links to six. We want individuals to know you can take important lifestyle steps to reduce risk for many kinds of cancer."

Esophageal cancer is the sixth most common cause of death from cancer and the seventh-leading cause of cancer deaths among men in this country.

"Making smart choices like limiting alcoholic drinks, eating more vegetables, beans and other plant foods, and boosting your activity with walking breaks are all ways to get on a path to lower cancer risk," said Bender.

The article in the journal Addiction by Jennie Connor of Otago University in New Zealand focused on the established link between alcohol and cancers of the oropharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum and female breast.

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