This just in, and it’s definitive (for now): People who drink alcohol in moderation — especially older people, women and non-Latino white people — are less likely to die of any cause than are teetotalers or people who consume heavy doses of alcohol either on occasion or in an average week.
In follow-up periods that hovered around eight years, moderate drinkers were no less likely than alcohol abstainers to die of cancer. But they were roughly a quarter less likely to die of heart disease or stroke than were people who never consumed alcohol.
Heavy drinkers fared slightly worse than moderate drinkers and never-drinkers in their likelihood of dying of any cause during the studies’ follow-up periods. But it wasn’t the risk of heart failure or heart attack that heavy drinkers drove up: it was cancer.
Heavy drinkers’ odds of dying from cancer were roughly 45% higher than were the cancer-death odds of moderate drinkers.