THURSDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- While smoking has long
been linked to cancer, its frequent companion, drinking, may be as
well, a new study suggests.
Three new studies presented at a medical meeting this week find
a link between heavy boozing and a rise in risk for the number one
On the other hand, studies also suggest that heavier people are
less likely to develop lung cancer than smaller folk, and black tea
might help ward of the disease, as well.
The findings were to be presented at the annual meeting of the
American College of Chest Physicians, Oct. 22-26, in Honolulu.
More Americans die from lung cancer than any other form,
according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC). In 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are
available, more than 203,000 people in the United States were
diagnosed with lung cancer, and nearly 159,000 died.
In one study presented at the meeting, Dr. Stanton Siu and
colleagues at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., looked at the
diets and lifestyles of more than 126,000 people first surveyed
between 1978 and 1985. They then tracked their incidence of lung
cancer through 2008.
The team found that having more than three alcoholic drinks per
day upped lung cancer risk, with a slightly higher risk ascribed to
beer consumption versus wine or liquor. Specifically, compared to
teetotalers, people who had three or more drinks daily were 30
percent more likely to develop lung cancer, with a 70 percent rise
in risk if the drink of preference was beer.
One expert stressed, however, that it's tough to tease out
drinking from another, even more carcinogenic habit, smoking, since
the two often go together.
"Smoking remains an overwhelming factor, but . . . heavy drinking, whether it's the alcohol itself, or that heavy drinking is a surrogate for hanging out in smoky bars and getting more smoke, I don't know," said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, who was not involved in any of the studies.
In another intriguing finding from the study, a higher body mass
index (BMI), which indicates overweight or obesity, was linked to a
reduction in the odds for lung malignancies.
The finding may not mean that packing on extra pounds insulates
one against lung cancer, however. Edelman noted that being
overweight or obese is typically associated with poorer health,
while "people who are sick weigh little," he said. So, the results
may just mean that the heavier study participants haven't suffered
the ill effects of their lifestyle -- yet.
In a separate study also slated for presentation at the meeting,
researchers from the Czech Republic found that among non-smoking
women, regular black tea consumption appeared to lower lung cancer
risk by about 31 percent, and higher amounts of fruit in the diet
was also linked to lowered lung cancer risk for both genders.
Edelman and Dr. Mark Rosen, chief of the division of
pulmonary/critical care and sleep medicine at the North Shore-LIJ
Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y., cautioned that all of the
study results need to be replicated before being taken
"They show some interesting associations, but that doesn't mean they're necessarily factual," Rosen said. "If you put a lot of data into a computer, you're going to find some things come out [linked] just by chance. Associations are interesting, but they all require further studies."
Experts also note that research presented at scientific meetings
is considered preliminary and has not been peer-reviewed.
For more on alcohol and health, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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