Researchers from Queen's Belfast University in Northern Ireland recently conducted a study, published in in the journal PLOS Medicine, to explore mortality and cancer risks among drinkers and non-drinkers.
To do so, they reviewed data from the US Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, which examined nearly 100,000 adults in America between 1993 and 2001.
The participants, aged 55 to 74, completed a diet history questionnaire, which listed their alcohol consumption, and were followed up with after about nine years. Analysts also took note of their cancer diagnoses from medical records.
After analyzing the results, they found that the average lifetime alcohol intake for adults was about 1.78 drinks per week. At a closer look, they discovered that men drank about 4.02 drinks weekly and women drank about 0.80 weekly.
They revealed that heavy drinkers or those who have more than three drinks a day have the highest death and cancer risks. However, they found that a person's combined risk of dying younger or developing cancer is lowest among light drinkers or those have one to three drinks a week.
In fact, light drinkers have a lower combined risk of overall mortality or cancer compared to those who never drink, their research revealed.
"We had expected light drinkers to be at a similar combined risk to never drinkers, so the reduced risk in light drinkers was surprising," coauthor Andrew Kunzmann told CNN. "The reasons for the reduced risk in light drinkers compared to never drinkers are still open to debate amongst the scientific community."
The authors did point out a few limitations. They said they only assessed older adults. Plus, the information they received was self-reported, and they also did not factor in other risk factors for cancer. However, they believe their findings are still strong.
"This study," the team wrote, "provides further insight into the complex relationship between alcohol consumption, cancer incidence, and disease mortality and may help inform public health guidelines."