Health News

Smoking, drinking linked to throat, stomach cancer

LONDON (Reuters) - Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes appear to increase the risk of certain common throat and stomach cancers, Dutch researchers reported on Monday.

The findings, presented at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Washington, underline other health recommendations for people to follow a healthy lifestyle and drink and smoke only in moderation.

“It appeared that current smokers have the highest risks, and former smokers have an intermediate risk compared with never smokers,” Jessie Steevens, an epidemiologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, said in a statement.

The incidence of stomach cancer has fallen dramatically in the United States and western Europe over the past 60 years but the disease remains a serious problem in much of the rest of the world, where it is a leading cause of cancer death, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Esophageal, or throat, cancer is a form of cancer that starts in the inner layer of the esophagus, the 10-inch-long tube that connects the throat to the stomach.

The researchers followed more than 120,000 Dutch residents for more than two decades to investigate risk factors for Esophageal adenocarcinoma and gastric cardia adenocarcinoma -- a type of stomach cancer -- as well as Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, which resembles head and neck cancer.

Other studies have linked Esophageal cancer in general to drinking and smoking, but Steevens and colleagues wanted to refine the risk of the different types of the tumors.

They found that for Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma -- which accounts for about half of throat cancers -- people who consumed four glasses of alcohol each day had five times the risk of developing the cancer of non-drinkers.

Smoking was associated with an increased risk of all three cancers with the risks of the more common throat cancer higher than the other two cancers, Steevens said.

“These are the results when no other aspects of smoking were considered, such as the amount of cigarettes smoked per day and the number of years a person smoked,” Steevens said.

“When we took into account the smoking duration and frequency, it appeared that the difference in risk between former smokers and current smokers could partly be explained by these other aspects of smoking.”

Reporting by Michael Kahn; editing by Julie Steenhuysen and Tim Pearce