The skin cancer risks associated with tanning are well known, and many people are aware that lung cancer can result from smoking. New research from the American Journal of Public Health, however, highlights the cancer risks associated with alcohol use. According to the study, alcohol use is estimated to account for 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States.

Results from the study indicate that roughly 20,000 alcohol-attributable deaths occurred in 2009 or about 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths. The study also notes that while the majority of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths occurred among those who consumed more than three drinks a day, 30 percent of the deaths occurred with a consumption of less than 1.5 drinks a day.

Previous research has linked alcohol use to cancer, and in this study, researchers analyzed deaths that resulted from seven cancers shown to be associated with alcohol use, including oral cavity and pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum and female breast. Using 2009 U.S. mortality data alongside alcohol surveys and per capita alcohol consumption data, the study investigated the extent to which cancer deaths are attributable to alcohol use.

“I just don’t think there’s enough attention across the board, from physicians or public health,” said David Nelson, MD, MPH, lead author of the study, in a recent NBC News article on the study.

WebMD discusses the “one in every 30 cancer deaths” related to alcohol and the types of cancers that appear to generate a higher risk such as breast cancer “with 15 percent of those deaths related to alcohol consumption.”

The study suggests the importance of keeping alcohol consumption in mind when addressing cancer prevention as Nelson shared in a San Francisco Chronicle article. He explained, “Alcohol has been known to be related to causing cancer for a long period of time. We talk about cancer prevention, screenings and tests. This is one of those things that seems to be missing in plain sight.”

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