More Health Dangers for Heavy Drinkers Found

Studies Reveal More Problems Facing Alcoholics

Health Dangers for heavy drinkers
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Research studies from around the world continue to emphasize the serious health effects of long-term and heavy drinking, from an increased risk for having accidents, developing prediabetes, and certain cancers.

Heavy drinking has long been associated with other liver problems, such as cirrhosis, but an Italian study has linked heavy drinking to the development of liver cancer.

Dr. Francesco Donato, a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Brescia in Italy, studied 464 Italian men and women diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer, and 824 patients with no liver damage.

Increased Risk of Liver Cancer

Donato's researchers found that drinking more than 60 grams of alcohol a day, equivalent to four to five glasses of wine, was associated with an elevated risk of developing liver cancer for both men and women.

They also found that the risk of developing liver cancer was even greater for patients who had been diagnosed with either hepatitis C or hepatitis B. The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Heavy Drinking and Thyroid Cancer

A Korean study of 2,258 patients who were diagnosed with differentiated thyroid cancer and 22,580 healthy participants evaluated the effects of acute high-dose and chronic lifetime exposure to alcohol.

The study found that light to moderate drinking behavior was linked to a reduced risk of differentiated thyroid cancer, but acute heavy alcohol consumption was associated with an increased risk for that type cancer in both men and women.

Men who were heavy drinkers were more than twice as likely to develop differentiated thyroid cancer and heavy-drinking women were more than three times likely, the study found.

The Korean study also found that binge drinking, or the consumption of a large amount of alcohol on a single occasion, was also linked to a greater risk of thyroid cancer development.

Increased Risk for Prediabetes

A study of almost 2,000 Chinese men looked at the relationship between heavy alcohol consumption at abnormal glucose metabolism, which occurs when the body has difficulty processing sugar (glucose) into energy.

The middle-aged and elderly men were divided into groups of light, moderate, heavy drinkers, and non-drinkers. The researchers then calculated the incidence of prediabetes and newly diagnosed diabetes among the groups.

The study found that alcohol consumption, particularly heavy alcohol consumption, was an independent risk factor for the development of prediabetes, but not for diabetes.

Because the researchers found that heavy drinking was a factor in both prediabetes and poor treatment adherence, they recommend that drinkers who are at risk for diabetes restrict their drinking to light or moderate levels.

Increased Injury Risks

Another study, conducted by the Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, revealed that recovering alcoholics are much more prone to injury than recovering users of cocaine, heroin, and other illicit drugs.

The researchers found at the start of a detoxification program, alcoholics were about twice as likely to have suffered a serious injury in the previous six months as compared to illicit drug users.

The significant finding of the study was the surprising revelation that higher injury rates to alcoholics continued for the following two years after detoxification; alcoholics continued to be more accident prone than drug users even after they quit drinking.

Jeffrey H. Samet, the study's senior author, said, "Our hypothesis was simply that when it comes to substance abuse, the consequences vary for each substance and for the group of users. What the substance is may be an important factor in the outcomes of the user."


Donato, F, et al. "Alcohol and Hepatocellular Carcinoma: The Effect of Lifetime Intake and Hepatitis Virus Infections in Men and Women." American Journal of Epidemiology Aug. 2001

Hwang Y, et al. "Acute High-Dose and Chronic Lifetime Exposure to Alcohol Consumption and Differentiated Thyroid Cancer." PloS One March 2016

Rees VW, et al. "Injury among detoxification patients: alcohol users' greater risk." Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research 2002

Zhang S, et al. "The Relationship between Alcohol Consumption and Incidence of Glycometabolic Abnormality in Middle-Aged and Elderly Chinese Men." International Journal of Endocrinology February 2016