(NBC News) The first update of alcohol-linked cancer deaths in the U.S. in three decades shows that booze can be blamed for nearly 20,000 deaths a year — and it’s not just the heavy drinkers.

Certainly those who downed three or more drinks a day accounted for most of the deaths from seven kinds of cancer, up to 60 percent, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

But consuming just 1.5 drinks a day — or less — was associated with up to 35 percent of those cancer deaths, suggesting that any alcohol use carries some risk.

“For non-drinkers, it’s another reason to feel happy they don’t drink,” said Dr. Timothy Naimi, the study’s director and an associate professor at the Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health. “For drinkers, it shows that when it comes to cancer, the less you drink, the better.”

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.