Published: Wed, April 25, 2018
Medical | By Marta Holmes

One Drink a Day Can Increase Cancer Risk

One Drink a Day Can Increase Cancer Risk

Drinking one or more alcoholic drinks per day may cause overabundance of mouth bacteria linked to gum disease, some cancers, and heart disease, a study warns.

The research team found out that health problems tied to drinking can be reversed or prevented by rebalancing some of the 700 types of bacteria in the mouth, or oral microbiome.

"My report provides another scientific rationale for avoiding excessive alcohol drinking", she added in a telephone interview. This is because there has been evidence which says that alcohol can affect bacterial makeup of the mouth. Previously, work at NYU Langone and elsewhere have talked about how microbial changes in the mouth are tied to the risk for head, neck cancers, and gastrointestinal cancers.

They were between 55 and 87, and majority were white.

"We did not find a specific threshold level", Ahn said, though heavier drinking led to more extensive changes in the oral microbiome. Furthermore, humans have significant inter-individual differences in their oral bacteria compositions, which may lead to inter-individual susceptibilities to develop certain diseases. Ahn's team set out to determine whether some or all of these various types of damage are due to alcohol's effect on the microbiome in the mouth.

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People with imbalances may be more prone to obesity and asthma. They also filled out detailed health and lifestyle questionnaires.

Researchers mentioned that they took various factors into consideration like people's age, smoking habits, their race, level of education and body weight. Researchers analyzed oral bacteria and compared the microbe composition among 270 nondrinkers, 614 moderate drinkers, and 160 heavy drinkers.

Ahn said roughly 10 per cent of American adults are estimated to be heavy drinkers, which experts define as consumption of one or more drinks per day for women, and two or more drinks per day for men.

Researchers note that the observational study doesn't show cause and effect.

Drinkers were found to have an abundance of potentially harmful Bacteroidales, Actinomyces and Neisseria, and a lack of beneficial Lactobacillales.

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It's not clear if drinking simply kills off some bacteria, allowing others to flourish, or whether it encourages the "bad" bacteria to flourish by affecting saliva production or by making a friendlier environment for the bad bugs. Around 25% people said that they were non-drinkers, while 59% said that they were moderate drinkers and 15% were heavy drinkers.

Han explained that the oral microbiome could be influenced by a wide range of factors - from diet, tooth brushing and dental care, to income and other demographics.

In general, studies have found, the more diversity in the gut microbiome, the better.

Ahn said she had not thought about what her team's findings might mean for people who use alcohol-based mouthwashes.

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