Most people know that heavy drinking can cause health problems. But many people might not know that drinking alcohol also can raise their risk of getting cancer. Cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, and esophagus: Alcohol use clearly raises the risk of these cancers. Drinking and smoking together raises the risk of these link between alcohol and cancer even more than drinking or smoking alone.
This might be because alcohol can help harmful chemicals in tobacco get inside the cells that line the mouth, throat and esophagus. Alcohol may also limit how these cells can repair damage to their DNA caused by the chemicals in tobacco.
Long-term alcohol use has been linked to an increased risk of liver cancer. Regular, heavy alcohol use can damage the liver, link between alcohol and cancer, leading to inflammation and scarring. This might raise the risk of liver cancer. Colon and rectal cancer: Alcohol use has been linked with a higher risk of cancers of the colon and rectum. The evidence for this is generally stronger in men than in women, but studies have found the link in both sexes.
Even a few drinks a week is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer in women. This risk may be especially high in women who do not get link between alcohol and cancer folate a B vitamin in their diet or through supplements. Alcohol can also raise estrogen levels in the body, which may explain some of the increased risk.
Cutting link between alcohol and cancer on alcohol may be an important way for many women to lower their risk of breast cancer. Ethanol is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks, whether they are beers, wines, liquors distilled spiritsor other drinks.
Alcoholic drinks contain different percentages of ethanol, but in general, link between alcohol and cancer, a standard size drink of any type — 12 ounces of beer, link between alcohol and cancer lung and cancer and the effects of wine, or 1, link between alcohol and cancer.
Overall, the amount of alcohol someone drinks over time, not the type of alcoholic beverage, seems to be the most important factor in raising cancer risk. Most evidence suggests that it is the ethanol that increases the risk, not other things in the drink. In fact, there might be several different ways it can raise risk, and this might depend on the type of cancer. Alcohol can act as an irritant, especially in the mouth and throat.
Cells that are damaged by the alcohol may try to repair themselves, which could lead link between alcohol and cancer DNA changes that can be a step toward cancer. Bacteria that normally live in the colon and rectum can convert alcohol into large amounts of acetaldehyde, a chemical that has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals.
Alcohol and its byproducts can also damage the liver, leading to inflammation and scarring. As liver cells link between alcohol and cancer to repair the damage, they can end up with mistakes in their DNA, which could lead to cancer.
Alcohol may help other harmful chemicals, such as those in tobacco smokeenter the cells lining the upper digestive tract more easily.
This might explain why the combination of smoking and drinking is much more likely to cause cancers in the mouth or throat than muriatic acid and cancer or drinking alone. Folate is a vitamin that cells in the body need to stay healthy, link between alcohol and cancer. Absorption of nutrients can be even worse in heavy drinkers, who often have low levels of folate.
These low levels may play a role in the risk of some cancers, such as breast and colorectal cancer. Alcohol can raise the levels of estrogen, a hormone important in the growth and development of breast tissue. Too much alcohol link between alcohol and cancer add extra calories to the diet, which can contribute to weight gain in some people. Being overweight or obese is known to increase the risks of many types of cancer. Most people know about the short-term effects of drinking alcohol, such as its effects on mood, concentration, judgment, and coordination.
But alcohol can also have longer-term health effects. These can vary from person to person. For some people, alcohol is addictive. Drinking can become heavier over time, link between alcohol and cancer, leading to serious health and social problems. Heavy drinkers who suddenly stop drinking can have physical withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, lamictal and sauna, hallucinations, seizures, and other serious problems over the next few days.
In some people these can be life-threatening. It does mean that heavy drinkers should talk with their health care team about the safest way to stop drinking.
Over time, heavy drinking can cause inflammation hepatitis and heavy scarring cirrhosis in the liver. This can lead to liver failure. Heavy drinking can also link between alcohol and cancer other organs, such as the pancreas and the brain, and can raise blood pressure. It also increases the risk of heart link between alcohol and cancer and stroke. In pregnant women, alcohol use, especially heavy drinking, may lead to birth defects or other problems with the fetus.
On the other hand, low to moderate alcohol use has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease in some people. Low to moderate use is usually defined as 1 or 2 drinks a day for a man or 1 drink a day for a woman. The potential benefit of lowering heart disease risk has to be weighed against the possible health risks for each person.
As part of its guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer preventionthe American Cancer Society recommends that people who drink alcohol limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women. The recommended limit is lower for women because of their smaller body size and because their bodies tend to break down alcohol more slowly. Alcohol use has been linked to several types of cancer and other health risks, but this is complicated by the fact that low-to-moderate alcohol intake has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease.
There are many ways to reduce heart disease risk, including avoiding smoking, eating a diet low in saturated and trans fats, staying at a healthy weight, staying physically active, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol. According to the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans, some groups of people should not drink alcoholic beverages at all. Many studies have found a link between alcohol intake and the risk of developing certain cancers.
But it is not clear whether alcohol use after treatment might increase the risk of these cancers coming back recurring. For example, alcohol can increase the levels of estrogens in the body, which might increase the risk for breast cancer recurrence. But there is no strong evidence from studies to support this. In people who have already been diagnosed with cancer, alcohol intake could also affect the risk of developing a new cancer. There are some cases during cancer treatment in which alcohol clearly should be avoided, link between alcohol and cancer.
For example, alcohol — even in very small amounts — can irritate mouth sores caused by some cancer treatments, and can even make them worse. Alcohol can also interact with some drugs used during cancer treatment, which might increase the risk of harmful side effects.
But for people who have completed cancer treatment, the effects of alcohol on cancer recurrence risk are largely unknown. Factors that can be important include:. Along with the American Cancer Society, other sources of patient information and support include:.
Helps people make informed choices about body weight, physical activity, and diet including alcohol use that may reduce their risk of cancer. Has a wide variety of fact sheets and other information about the health problems linked to alcohol use. Makes referrals to local AA groups and provides informational materials on the AA program.
Many cities and towns also have a local AA office listed in the phone book. Also makes referrals to Alateen groups, which offer support to children of alcoholics.
Provides telephone numbers of local NCADD affiliates who can provide information on local treatment resources and link between alcohol and cancer materials on alcoholism.
Publications available from NIAAA feature information on a wide variety of topics, including fetal alcohol syndrome, the dangers of mixing alcohol with medications, family history of alcoholism, and preventing underage drinking. Provides alcohol and drug information and treatment referral assistance. American Cancer Society; Moderate alcohol intake and cancer incidence in women. J Natl Cancer Inst. Light to moderate intake of alcohol, drinking patterns, and risk of cancer: Results from two prospective US cohort studies.
Alcohol and Public Health: International Agency for Research on Cancer. Alcohol Consumption and Ethyl Carbamate. American Cancer Society guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: Reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA Cancer J Clin. Alcohol and risk of breast cancer by histologic type and hormone receptor status in postmenopausal women: Alcohol and Cancer Risk.
Nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors. Continuous Update Project Report: February 12, Last Revised: For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy, link between alcohol and cancer.
Diet and Physical Activity. Alcohol Use and Cancer Most people know that heavy drinking can cause health problems. Cancers linked to alcohol use Alcohol use has been linked with cancers of the: For each of these cancers, the more alcohol you drink, the higher your cancer risk. Does the type of alcohol matter? How does alcohol raise cancer risk? Damage to body tissues Alcohol can act as an irritant, especially in the mouth and throat.