(HealthDay News) — Russians who drink vodka heavily have a higher risk of dying prematurely, according to a study published online January 31 in The Lancet.

David Zaridze, MD, from the Russian Cancer Research Centre in Moscow, and colleagues interviewed 151,000 adults with no previous disease (including 57,361 male smokers) living in three Russian cities from 1999–2008 regarding smoking, drinking, education, work, and their history of serious illness.

After following the group until 2010, the researchers found that among male smokers the estimated 20-year risk of death at 35–54 years of age significantly increased with increasing vodka consumption, from 16% for those consuming one bottle per week to 35% for those consuming three or more bottles per week. Similar increases were found for the 20-year risk of death at 55–74 years of age. In both cases, most of the excess mortality was from external causes or diseases strongly associated with alcohol. Although heavy drinking was less common in male nonsmokers and in women, similar excess risks were observed.

“This large prospective study strongly reinforces other evidence that vodka is a major cause of the high risk of premature death in Russian adults,” Zaridze and colleagues conclude.

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