The use of alcohol increases the risk of alcohol-related cancers and injury, according to an international study published on Thursday in The Lancet, a UK medical journal. A part of the research was conducted at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh.
With a view to finding associations between alcohol consumption and clinical outcomes, the PGI's School of Public Health enrolled more than 4,000 people aged between 35 and 70.
Their health conditions were tracked continuously since 2003.
The entire study included 1.14 lakh adults in 12 countries from all five continents, of whom around 12,000 (11%) were from high-income countries (HICs), around 24,000 (21%) were from upper-middle income countries (UMICs), 48,845 (43%) were from low-middle-income countries (LMICs), and 29,000 (25%) were from low-income countries (LICs).
According to experts, alcohol consumption is the third-most important modifiable risk factor for death and disability. The Lancet said alcohol consumption had been associated with both benefits and harms, and previous studies were mostly done in high-income countries.
"Our findings show that the alcohol use in countries of all income levels shows that the current use increases the risk of alcohol-related cancers and injury, with no reduction in risk of mortality or cardiovascular disease overall," said Dr Rajesh Kumar, one of the authors of the study, who heads School of Public Health at the PGI, where the study was carried out.
The study found that those who drank when they were enrolled for the study were associated with a 51% increased risk of alcohol-related cancers, including of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, colorectum, liver, breast, ovary, head and neck.
The study also found that drinking was associated with a 24% reduced risk of heart attack, and there was no reduction in risk of mortality or stroke.
However, Dr Kumar said they had concluded that "there was no overall benefit from alcohol use. High alcohol intake and heavy episodic drinking were both associated with significant increases in risk of overall mortality".
Lead author of the study Dr Andrew Smyth of the Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, said, "Our data support the call to increase global awareness of the importance of harmful use of alcohol and the need to further identify and target the modifiable determinants of harmful alcohol use."
The high-income countries were Sweden and Canada; upper-middle-income countries were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Poland, South Africa and Turkey; lower-middle-income countries were China and Colombia; and low-income countries were India and Zimbabwe.