National Cancer Institute  U.S. National Institutes of Health

Cancer Trends Progress Report – 2007 Update

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Age at Smoking Initiation
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Secondhand Smoke
Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
Fat Consumption
Alcohol Consumption
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Alcohol Consumption
Prevention: Behavioral Factors

Per capita alcohol consumption has been relatively stable over the past decade.

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Alcohol and Cancer

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, and liver in men and women, and of breast cancer in women. In general, these risks increase after about one daily drink for women and two daily drinks for men. (A drink is defined as 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.)

The chances of getting liver cancer increase markedly with five or more drinks per day. Heavy alcohol use may also increase the risk of colorectal cancer, and leads to greater increases in risk for most of the alcohol-related cancers. The earlier that long-term, heavy alcohol use begins, the greater the cancer risk. Also, using alcohol with tobacco is riskier than using either one alone, because it further increases the chances of getting cancers of the mouth, throat, and esophagus.

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Per capita alcohol consumption: The estimated number of gallons of pure alcohol drunk per person (aged 14 and older), per year. This measure accounts for the varying alcohol content of wine, beer, and liquor. People as young as 14 are included because a large number of adolescents begin drinking at an early age.

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Period – 1990–2004

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Trends – Falling from 1990–1995, then rising from 1995–2004

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Most Recent Estimate

In 2004, per capita alcohol consumption was 2.23 gallons for all beverages, including beer, wine, and liquor.

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Healthy People 2010 Target

Reduce annual per capita alcohol consumption to 2 gallons.

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Groups at High Risk for Using Alcohol

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that alcoholic beverages should not be consumed by some individuals, including those who cannot restrict their alcohol intake, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, pregnant and lactating women, children and adolescents, individuals taking medications that can interact with alcohol, and those with certain medical conditions.

Many people start drinking as early as middle school (13- to 14-year-olds). Among 12- to 17-year-olds, Whites and Hispanics are more likely than Blacks to use alcohol. Among alcohol drinkers, those aged 18–25 consume greater quantities than any other group.

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Key Issues

Some studies suggest that alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of some non-cancer health conditions. However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of health considerations.

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Additional Information on Alcohol Consumption

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National Cancer InstituteDepartment of Health and Human ServicesNational Institutes of