updated 6/25/2005 1:09:32 PM ET 2005-06-25T17:09:32

Alcohol abuse kills some 75,000 Americans each year and shortens the lives of these people by an average of 30 years, a U.S. government study suggested Thursday.

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Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States after tobacco use and poor eating and exercise habits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the study, estimated that 34,833 people in 2001 died from cirrhosis of the liver, cancer and other diseases linked to drinking too much beer, wine and spirits.

Another 40,933 died from car crashes and other mishaps caused by excessive alcohol use.

Researchers considered any man who averaged more than two drinks per day or more than four drinks per occasion to be an excessive drinker. For women it was more than one drink per day or more than three drinks per occasion.

“These results emphasize the importance of adopting effective strategies to reduce excessive drinking, including increasing alcohol excise taxes and screening for alcohol misuse in clinical settings,” the study said.

Men accounted for 72 percent of the excessive drinking deaths in 2001, and those 21 and younger made up 6 percent of the death toll.

Light or moderate drinking can benefit a person’s health, but heavy drinking increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disorders, certain cancers and liver disease.

Excessive drinkers are also more likely to die in car accidents. The United States aims to cut the rate of alcohol-related driving fatalities to 4 deaths per 100,000 people by 2010, a 32 percent drop from 1998.

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