Even Light Drinking May Raise Cancer Risk, Doctors Warn

Kristen Gonzales
November 9, 2017

Alcohol is associated with 5.5 per cent of all new cancers and 5.8 per cent of all cancer deaths worldwide, including cancers of the breast, larynx, liver, colon, esophagus, and head and neck, according to statement released Tuesday by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The greater risks are for the heavy drinkers (defined by NIAAA as those who binge drink on five or more days in a month, with binge drinking defined as consuming four drinks in a sitting for women, five for men).

Yet few adults, when asked, identify alcohol consumption as a risk factor for cancer, even though the vast majority were familiar with other cancer risk factors, like smoking and sun exposure, a recent ASCO survey of 4,016 adults found.

"The more you drink, the higher the risk", said Dr. Clifford A. Hudis, the chief executive of ASCO.

Between five and six percent of new cancers and cancer deaths globally are directly attributed to alcohol, yet only 38 percent of Americans limit their intake of alcohol to reduce their risk for cancer, the organization wrote.

LoConte is the author of "Alcohol and Cancer", an American Society of Clinical Oncology special article.

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If you are a moderate drinker, this doesn't mean you have to completely swear off the stuff.

With liver cancer, alcohol leads to cirrhosis and cirrhosis, in turn, leads to cancer, but it's not always such a clear chain reaction.

Many people may not recognize the link between alcohol and cancer, Ashton said, and thus may be missing out on an opportunity to lower cancer risk factors. He claimed that he hopes this knowledge empowers doctors "to help their patients reduce their risk of cancer". In the case of the aforementioned mouth and throat cancers, studies suggest that "the risk of cancer may be reduced to that seen in never drinkers after long-term ( 20 years) cessation from alcohol drinking".

Dr. LoConte said it's not just wine. "We also can't ignore the fact that in many USA counties a quarter of the people, or more, are binge drinkers".

"That puts some weight behind this", she said.

The researchers add that the benefits of alcohol - especially the widely held belief that red wine improves cardiovascular health - has likely been overstated and doctors should not recommend alcohol consumption to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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