Alcohol and Cancer - Things You Need To Know

Recent evidence suggests a strong correlation between alcohol consumption and cancer. Here are five important facts you need to know about the association between alcohol and cancer.

  • Linked Cancers: Alcohol consumption has been linked to various cancers of Mouth and Throat (Oral cavity and Oropharynx), Voice Box (Larynx), Food pipe (Esophagus), Colon and Rectum, Liver and Breast Cancer in women. Some studies also suggest an increased risk for stomach, prostate, and pancreatic cancers.
  • How does alcohol consumption increase risk of cancer: Drinking alcohol increases a person’s risk of developing cancer in several ways: Moderate drinkers have 1.8-fold higher risk of oral cavity and throat cancers, and a 1.4-fold higher risk of voice box cancers compared to non-drinkers. Heavy drinkers face an overall fivefold increased risk. Any level of alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of esophageal squamous cell cancers (1.3-fold higher risk for light drinkers to nearly 5-fold higher risk for heavy drinkers. Heavy alcohol consumption doubles the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. Recent studies have also shown higher risk of breast cancer in women who consume alcohol in moderate amount as well. Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption is also associated with a 1.2 to 1.5-fold increased risk of colon and rectum cancer compared to non-drinkers.
  • Types of Alcoholic Drinks: All types of alcoholic beverages, including red and white wine, beer, and liquor, are associated with higher incidence of cancer. The risk increases with regular consumption. The combined effect of alcohol and tobacco consumption doubles the risk, particularly for pharynx and esophageal cancer.
  • Cancer Recurrence: While the exact link between alcohol consumption and cancer recurrence is not fully understood, it is advisable to avoid alcohol to prevent the occurrence of other alcohol-related cancers, especially for those who have completed cancer treatment.
  • Risk Reduction: Quitting alcohol consumption is a crucial step in reducing the risk of cancer and other alcohol-related diseases. It is important to note that the risk of cancer does not immediately decrease upon quitting alcohol and it may take several years for the risk to return to levels similar to those of non-drinkers.

Understanding the relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer is vital for making informed decisions about our health. By being aware of the risks and taking steps to reduce alcohol intake, we can lower our chances of developing alcohol-related cancers and other diseases as well in order to improve our overall well-being.

Dr. Ashish Goel
Department of Surgical Oncology
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