Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto analyzed studies published over a 40-year period -- from 1966 to 2006 -- about the risks of developing cancer of the esophagus, larynx and oral cavity. The researchers found a consistent relationship between drinking alcohol and developing head and neck cancers, confirming several other studies.
However, the study also found that those who quit drinking alcohol dramatically reduced their risk of getting cancer and the risks declines the longer they person remains abstinent.
Significantly Reduced Risk of Cancer
The study findings included:
- The risk of esophageal cancer nearly doubled in the first two years following alcohol cessation, but the risk then decreased rapidly and significantly after longer periods of abstention.
- Risk of head and neck cancer only reduced significantly after 10 years of cessation.
- After more than 20 years of alcohol cessation, the risks for both cancers were similar to those seen in people who never drank alcohol.
"Alcohol cessation has very similar effects on risk for head and neck cancers as smoking cessation has on lung cancer," said lead author Dr. Jurgen Rehm, in a news release. "It takes about two decades before the risk is back to the risk of those who were never drinkers or never smokers."