Reduced Alcohol Intake May Prevent The Chances of Developing Cancer

The New York Times

Even when consumed in moderation, alcohol is a "definite risk factor" for cancer, according to a special report by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), published today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

"Alcohol drinking is an established risk factor for several malignancies, and it is a potentially modifiable risk factor for cancer", ASCO said. Additionally, excessive alcohol use has also been found to negatively affect cancer treatment. ASCO recently did a survey and they found out that a large majority of physicians and patients were not aware of the association - this is also an opportunity to spread awareness.

The doctors' group is also calling for new public health initiatives to curb alcohol use, from taxes to restrictions on ads targeting minors, like the new ban on alcohol advertising on New York City's subways and buses slated to go into effect in January.

With liver cancer, alcohol leads to cirrhosis and cirrhosis, in turn, leads to cancer, but it's not always such a clear chain reaction. While it is okay to drink occasionally (read rarely), you shouldn't be making a habit out of it.

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Light drinking increases your risk of head and neck cancers by 13 per cent, while heavy drinking increases risk by over 500 per cent. As of 2009, excessive alcohol consumption was attributed to almost 3.5 percent of all cancer-related deaths.

Dr. LoConte said it's not just wine.

"People typically don't associate drinking beer, wine, and hard liquor with increasing their risk of developing cancer in their lifetimes", said Bruce Johnson, M.D., FASCO, ASCO president.

Wisconsin has the highest rate among states for adult binge drinking, one type of heavy drinking, so policy changes could have a big impact in the state, she said.

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Since, heavy consumers of alcohol meet much higher risk throat and mouth cancer, liver cancer, cancer of the voice box and to the lower scale, colorectal cancers. Alcohol has been shown to increase estrogen levels, thus putting women at greater risk of breast cancer. She says this "subtle" take on the issue is somewhat less cautionary than the warnings about smoking.

"With colon cancer, alcohol seems to interfere with the way folate is absorbed, which is a known precursor in the path to developing cancer in the colon", LoConte said to CTV News.

Even those who drink moderately, defined by the Centers for Disease Control as one daily drink for women and two for men, face almost a doubling of the risk for mouth and throat cancer and more than double the risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus, compared to nondrinkers.

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