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Heavy Drinking Linked to Pancreatic Cancer Deaths

By March 23, 2011

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Heavy alcohol consumption has long been associated with acute and chronic pancreatitis, but now researchers have definitively linked drinking three or more glasses of liquor a day to an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

The findings come from an American Cancer Society study of 1 million patients followed from 1982 until 2006.

The researchers used data collected from the Cancer Prevention Study II, a long-term study of 453,770 men and 576,697 women over the age of 30 who were first asked about their alcohol consumption in 1982. As of 2006, there were 6,847 pancreatic cancer deaths reported among those participants.

Increased Cancer Risks

Some of the American Cancer Society findings included:

  • For men, three or more drinks a day increased the risk of dying from pancreatic cancer.

  • For women, the risk was significantly higher at four drinks per day.

  • The risk was 36% higher for never smokers who had three drinks per day.

  • After adjusting for smoking history, smokers were 16% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

Risk Independent of Smoking

The researchers concluded that drinking three or more standard drinks per day increases pancreatic cancer mortality independent of smoking. These higher risks were found for liquor drinkers only. No significant increase was found for beer and wine drinkers, the authors wrote.

Heavy alcohol consumption has been previously linked to cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectum and female breast. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the United States.

Source: Gapstur SM, et al. "Association of Alcohol Intake With Pancreatic Cancer Mortality in Never Smokers." Archives of Internal Medicine 14 March 20ll.


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March 28, 2011 at 7:58 am
(1) Aces says:

What constitutes a “drink” or “glass”? Is it eight ounces, a shot, a double?

March 28, 2011 at 9:39 am
(2) alcoholism says:

A standard drink contains 1.5 oz. of whiskey, gin or vodka.

March 28, 2011 at 11:23 am
(3) Ajay says:

Does this mean that the risk for non-smokers who are heavy drinkers (36%) is higher than for smokers and heavy drinkers (16 %)?

January 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm
(4) Todd says:

My father died from Panreatic Cancer. He was a alcoholic drinking a 5th or more a day.

May 29, 2013 at 4:36 pm
(5) Pilar says:

My husband is an alcoholic who has all the symptoms of pancreatic insufficiency, failure and possibly cancer however, since he refuses to go to the doctor, he has not been diagnosed or treated. It’s a terrible thing to watch happen to someone you love.

August 5, 2013 at 10:41 pm
(6) Debra LL says:

The two heaviest drinkers I have known in my lifetime both died from pancreatic cancer. They weren’t old men when they passed away.

March 20, 2014 at 3:27 pm
(7) Lou says:

my friend has sadly just passed away from pancreatic cancer aged 59 and was an alcoholic and heavy smoker for many years

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