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For Immediate Release

Highlights from the American Journal of Public Health: April 2013


Highlights from the American Journal of Public Health: April 2013 issue

AJPH News Release

EMBARGOED UNTIL February 14, 2013, 4 p.m. (EST)

CONTACT: For copies of articles or full table of contents of issue, call Kim Short, 202-777-2511, or email her.

The articles below will be published online Feb. 14, 2013, at 4 p.m. (EST) by the American Journal of Public Health ® under “First Look,”  and they are currently scheduled to appear in the April 2013 print issue of the Journal. “First Look” articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. The American Journal of Public Health is published by the American Public Health Association.

American Journal of Public Health Highlights:

1)   Alcohol use accounts for many cancer deaths, even moderate use

2)   Opening windows at home helps prevent low birth weight and pre-term birth for pregnant women

3)   Location of alcohol outlets, drug markets could help officials map violent crimes


1)   Alcohol use accounts for many cancer deaths, even moderate use

Alcohol use is estimated to account for 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States resulting in approximately 18 years of potential life lost for each death, according to new research from the American Journal of Public Health.

With a lack of comprehensive research on this matter for 30 years, researchers estimated the current number of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths and the resulting years of potential life lost. The study analyzed 2009 U.S. mortality data alongside sales-based data on per capita alcohol consumption and data from two national surveys assessing alcohol usage. Of the mortality data, researchers investigated deaths from seven cancers that previous research has shown to be associated with alcohol use, including oral cavity and pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum and female breast.


Results indicated that an estimated 18,178 to 21,284 alcohol-attributable deaths occurred in 2009 amounting to 3.2 percent to 3.7 percent of all cancer deaths that year. The study estimated that these cancer deaths accounted for an average of 17 to 19.1 years of potential life lost per death. Furthermore, data indicate that the majority of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths, 48 percent–60 percent, occurred among those with an average daily consumption of more than three drinks per day. Additionally, approximately 30 percent of deaths occurred with a consumption of less than 1.5 drinks per day, thus indicating that there may be no safe consumption level at which there is no cancer risk.

“Reducing alcohol consumption is an important and underemphasized cancer prevention strategy, yet receives surprisingly little attention among public health, medical, cancer, advocacy and other organizations in the United States, especially when compared with efforts related to other cancer prevention topics such as screening, genetics, tobacco and obesity,” the authors assert.

“When viewed in the broad context, alcohol results in 10 times as many deaths as it prevents worldwide even after one considers possible beneficial effects of low-level use for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. For most alcohol users, therefore, reducing alcohol consumption would likely improve their health in many ways in addition to reducing cancer risk,” they further explain.

[From: “Alcohol-attributable cancer deaths and years of potential life lost in the United States.” Contact: David Nelson, MD, MPH, National Cancer Institute, Boston, Mass.]


2)   Opening windows at home helps prevent low birth weight and preterm birth for pregnant women

According to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health, increased home ventilation could protect pregnant women against low birth weight and preterm birth that might result from secondhand smoke and other indoor-source volatile organic compounds.


Researchers surveyed 1,761 Los Angeles mothers and evaluated the indoor air quality of their residences while they were pregnant. This included assessing secondhand smoke exposure; how often windows were kept open in the home; and how often they used hairspray, insect spray and nail polish in the residence.


While results did not indicate a link between use of household items and preterm birth or low birth weight, researchers did identify the benefits of window ventilation. The study found that women with exposure to secondhand smoke at home were three times as likely to experience low birth weight and were 92 percent more likely to have a preterm birth if they only opened their windows for less than half of the day than women in nonsmoking households with frequent window ventilation. Furthermore, women in nonsmoking households that infrequently opened their windows had 49 percent higher chances of low birth weight and 25 percent higher chances of preterm birth than nonsmoking households with frequent ventilation.


“As there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke, pregnant women should be advised to avoid secondhand smoke exposure whenever possible, or mitigate secondhand smoke exposure by limiting smoking by household members to outdoor spaces or ventilating their home,” the authors make clear.


[From: “Effects of residential indoor air quality and household ventilation on preterm birth and low birth weight in Los Angeles County, California.” Contact: Jo Kay Ghosh, Department of Preventative Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC, University of Southern California.]

3)   Location of alcohol outlets, drug markets could help officials map violent crimes

New research published in the American Journal of Public Health reveals that the location of alcohol outlets, along with drug activity, is related to where violent crimes occur, and could help officials better prevent and police for violent behavior.

The study worked to determine if alcohol outlets were both producers and markers of violence. Researchers investigated the relationship between violent crimes in Boston-area drug markets and types and densities of alcohol outlets. The study examined 2006 data on homicides and aggravated assault incidents, drug arrests and 911 citizen emergency calls from the Boston Police Department along with 2000 U.S. census data and 2009 alcohol outlet data from the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage Control Commission.

Results from the study indicate that types and densities of alcohol outlets were directly related to violent crimes despite the fact that alcohol outlets are typically viewed as locations in which other population or environmental factors, such as poverty or prostitution, relate to the violence. Furthermore, the study shows that drug possession, rather than drug distribution, has a positive relationship with violent crimes.  Features of and activities occurring in adjacent areas, such as alcohol outlets and illicit drug behavior, were also found to be significantly related to violent crime in any given “target” area.

“Identification of such ‘hot spots’ may help in identifying micro-environments: blocks or intersections whose characteristics facilitate violent behavior. Our study helps identify such micro-environments, an emerging area of criminology research, in Boston,” the authors explain.

“Regardless of the specific alcohol outlet or drug relationships observed here, we have shown that place-based factors contribute to a more comprehensive and useful understanding of the contexts in which violent crime occurs. States and cities can build on such information to strengthen their alcohol control and policing policies,” they further suggest.

[From: “The geography of violence, alcohol outlets and drug arrests in Boston.” Contact: Robert Lipton, PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.]

The American Journal of Public Health ® is the monthly journal of the American Public Health Association, the oldest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world. APHA is a leading publisher of books and periodicals promoting sound scientific standards, action programs and public policy to enhance health.

Complimentary online access to the Journal is available to credentialed members of the media. Address inquiries to Kimberly Short at APHA, 202-777-2511, or via email. A single print issue of the Journal is available for $35 from the Journal’s Subscriptions department. If you are not a member of the press, a member of APHA or a subscriber, online single issue access is $30 and online single article access is $22. For direct customer service, call 202-777-2516, or email.

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