Do light drinkers have less cancer than teetotalers?

If you’ve been following the news on alcohol and cancer, you may have given up your nightly cocktail. After all, drinking alcohol is tied to at least seven types of cancer. Why risk it?

But the connection between alcohol and cancer isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

Sure, giving up alcohol is far better for your health and cancer risk than drinking too much. But there may be a drinking sweet spot that reduces your cancer risk more than giving up alcohol altogether.

In fact, a recent study from researchers at Queen’s University Belfast found that light drinking prevents you from getting cancer better than cutting alcohol out completely.

Cut cancer risk with a few drinks

A new study published in the journal PLOS Medicine found that drinking a few drinks per week is better for your cancer risk and lifespan than avoiding alcohol altogether.

The study included 99,654 adults between 55 and 74 years old. Study participants completed questionnaires about their alcohol habits. Researchers also tracked their medical records for nearly nine years to keep up with cancer diagnoses and death. And here’s what they found…

People who drank lightly — less than 0.5 drinks per day — had the lowest risk of death and cancer. People who drank more than 0.5 drinks per day obviously had the highest risk. And people who gave up alcohol altogether came in a close second.

“We had expected light drinkers to be at a similar combined risk to never drinkers, so the reduced risk in light drinkers was surprising,” said lead study author Andrew Kunzmann, a research fellow at Queen’s University Belfast.

Why does a dash of alcohol daily decrease your risk of disease and death?

Well, that’s still up for debate. But there’s plenty of evidence that light drinking protects your cardiovascular system. And a healthy cardiovascular system can contribute to better health and a lower risk of dying.

Half a drink… really?

Now, you may be thinking… who wants to drink half a drink? That’s no fun. But remember, that 0.5 figure I mentioned earlier is an average.

People in the study didn’t necessarily drink mini cocktails every day. They probably drank one to three drinks per week, which averages out to 0.5 drinks per day or less.

If you want to use light drinking to lower your cancer risk, you may also be wondering… what’s the best drink to choose for your weekly, biweekly or triweekly treat?

Well, drinks without added sugar are always healthier than sweet drinks. And hard liquor that’s clear (like vodka and gin) is better for you than the darker varieties. It has less calories and is easier on the body.

That said, red wine is probably your healthiest option because it’s packed with antioxidants. Beer’s high in antioxidants too, but it’s also higher in calories.

Whatever you choose to drink, don’t let one drink spiral into two… or three… or four. Alcohol is the third biggest contributor to cancer deaths. And if you drink more than 0.5 drinks per day, you have a much higher risk. So, if you can’t consume it in moderation, cut it out.

Editor’s note: Discover how to live a cancer prevention lifestyle — using foods, vitamins, minerals and herbs — as well as little-known therapies allowed in other countries but denied to you by American mainstream medicine. Click here to discover Surviving Cancer! A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Causes, Treatments and Big Business Behind Medicine’s Most Frightening Diagnosis!

  1. What drinking alcohol means for your cancer and death risk — CNN. Retrieved June 20, 2018.
  2. T. Kunzmann, et al. “The association of lifetime alcohol use with mortality and cancer risk in older adults: A cohort study.” — PLOS Medicine, 2018.
  3. Let’s Get Drunk! The Healthiest Ways To Drink Alcohol — Medical Daily. Retrieved June 20, 2018.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.