Study backs controversial link between alcohol intake and endometrial cancer

In collaboration with the Press Association

A new study has suggested a link between alcohol intake and cancer of the womb lining (endometrial cancer) in older women, although there is still no medical consensus on the subject.

Previous research has produced mixed results, with one study finding an increased risk of endometrial cancer among drinkers, several studies finding no link, and a few even suggesting that alcohol may reduce the risk, although the results in the latter study were inconsistent among different subgroups of women and may have been affected by smoking.

The latest study, conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC), analysed data on 41,574 postmenopausal women from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds, all of whom had participated in the Multiethnic Cohort Study.

Due to be published in the International Journal of Cancer, preliminary findings suggest that postmenopausal women who consume two or more alcoholic drinks a day may have double the risk of developing the disease.

Endometrial cancer affects 6,400 women every year in the UK.

Dr Brian Henderson, dean of the university's Keck School of Medicine, commented: "This discovery is important as it suggests that changes to certain lifestyle choices may potentially help alter risk of the disease.

"However, these findings are preliminary and must be investigated further before any recommendations about alcohol consumption can be made," he noted.

Veronica Wendy Setiawan, assistant professor of preventive medicine, said that this is the first prospective study to report a significant association between alcohol and endometrial cancer.

"It's important for women, especially postmenopausal women, to know and understand the consequences of high alcohol consumption. It does not affect just the liver, but alcohol has been associated with breast cancer and now endometrial cancer," she said.

"Previous studies have shown that alcohol consumption has been associated with higher levels of oestrogens in postmenopausal women, which could be the mechanism by which daily alcohol intake increases one's risk of endometrial cancer," she added.

The study also found that the link may be stronger in lean women than overweight women, although Ms Setiawan noted that this too is a preliminary finding and requires further research.