Cancer Risks Increase with Greater Use of Alcohol

Alcohol and Cancer

Comprehensive Cancer Centers urges its patients, and the general public, to take proper precautions to reduce cancer risks. Taking good care of one’s health is the best way to prevent illnesses and to ensure the best outcome, should an illness such as cancer occur. An area of increasing concern for causing health risks, and negatively affecting health and potential treatment outcomes, is found in the use of alcohol.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the use of alcohol increases the risk of several cancers, including those of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, as well as in the liver, breast, stomach and for colorectal cancers. With April being Head and Neck Cancer and Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month, we felt it was even more so important to bring attention to this concern.

The NCI study illustrated that patterns have emerged between the consumption of alcohol consumption and increased risks for the following specific types of cancer:

  • Liver Cancer: Health risks normally associated with the liver for drinkers is cirrhosis. Cancer diagnoses are unfortunately increasingly a part of liver illness diagnoses. Drinking alcoholic beverages has been found to potentially increase cancer risks by 200 percent, in comparison to those who do not drink alcohol.
  • Colorectal Cancer: Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption is associated with nearly a one- and one-half times increased risk of cancers of the colon and rectum compared to those who do not consume alcohol.
  • Head and Neck Cancer: Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption is associated with higher risks of certain head and neck cancers. Moderate drinkers have nearly twice the risks of oral cavity and pharynx cancers and one- and one-half times increased risks of larynx cancers than non-drinkers. Heavy drinkers have a 500 percent higher risk of oral cavity and pharynx cancers and a two and half times great risks of larynx cancers. The risks of these cancers are substantially higher among those who combine drinking alcohol with tobacco use.
  • Esophageal Cancer: Alcohol consumption at any level is associated with the increased risk of a type of esophageal cancer called esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. The risks for those who consume alcohol are nearly one and one third times higher for light drinkers and nearly five times greater for heavy drinkers, in comparison to those who do not drink alcohol. There’s also a greater risk for those who are genetically deficient in an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol.
  • Breast Cancer: Epidemiologic studies have consistently found an increased risk of breast cancer with drinking alcohol. Pooled data from 118 individual studies indicates that light drinkers have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer, compared with nondrinkers. The risk increase is greater in moderate drinkers) and heavy drinkers. An analysis of prospective data for 88,000 women participating in two US cohort studies concluded that for women who have never smoked, light to moderate drinking was associated with a 1.13-fold increased risk of alcohol-related cancers, with most of the diagnoses for breast cancer.

The physicians at Comprehensive Cancer Centers also caution people that risks from consumption of alcohol is not limit to any certain types of drinks.  This includes red and white wine, beer and cocktails.

How Much Alcohol is Too Much Alcohol?

The more alcohol consumed, the greater the risks of having health issues, such as cancer. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends avoiding drinking alcohol entirely. However, American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) acknowledges that modest amounts of alcohol may have a protective effect on heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. If you do drink alcohol, it is recommended to limit consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a standard alcoholic drink in the United States contains 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in the following drinks and serving sizes:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 8-9 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 5 ounces, or a “shot,” of 80-proof distilled spirits (liquor)

How Does Alcohol Increase Cancer Risks?

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) now classifies alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen (like tobacco). The World Health Organization estimates that between 4 percent and 25 percent of cancers are attributable to alcohol worldwide.

A recent article in Business Insider explains that part of the reason alcohol is dangerous is that it irritates tissues, making it easier for carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds) to sneak in and cause DNA damage in the body. When DNA is damaged, cells can begin growing out of control and create cancer tumors.

The article also points to the results of a worldwide study of drinkers in 195 countries. The study which was published in 2018 found that no matter where people live, heavier drinkers are more likely to develop cancer, and they’re also more likely to die from cancer and many other causes.

Comprehensive Cancer Centers Can Help

Comprehensive Cancer Centers is committed to the healthcare community and to our patients. We want to help raise awareness about risk factors and offer tips and recommendations for preventative measures, like reducing your alcohol intake or quitting smoking.  We also want you to keep in mind; everything in moderation! We are dedicated to providing the best care possible to all of our patients, so if you or a loved one has been diagnosed, please call 702-952-3350 to schedule an appointment.

The content is this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.