An association between Alcohol consumption and Cancer

An association between Alcohol consumption and Cancer

Extreme alcohol drinking in any way is injurious to health. It is said that drinking in moderate amounts can be beneficial for cardiovascular health. Moderation alcohol drinking defined as no more than 3 drinks a day for males (maximum 15 a week) and 2 drinks a day for females (maximum 10 a week). This amount is known as low-risk drinking.

Yet, alcohol and smoking can impact health in a drastic way and it is advised to limit drinking on every day basis. It has been noticed that alcohol consumption can enhance the mortality rates of various disease risks. This also involves cancer.

“International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and World Health Organization (WHO) reported for the very first time in 1988 that alcohol drinking is a risk factor for many types of cancers”

It is assessed in an analysis that alcohol was a risk factor in 5% of the new cancer cases and 4.5%, of the cancer deaths. It has been noticed that drinking alcohol is associated with mouth, larynx, pharynx, liver, esophagus, colon, rectum, pancreas, breast, prostate and lung cancer.

There are a number of epidemiological studies that have shown a significant relationship between alcohol use and the risk of these cancer:

Epidemiological Evidence for Alcohol-related Cancers

• Various prospective and case-control analyses exhibited a two to three-fold enhanced risk for the esophageal cancer in individuals who drank 50 g of alcohol every day (equal to about a half bottle of wine) as compared to non-alcoholic drinkers.

• In another analysis, it is also evident that alcohol increases the risk of upper aerodigestive tract (UADT) cancers.

The risk of this cancer also increases even at moderate consumption of alcohol (25 g/day). This rises up to four to six-fold range with higher amounts of alcohol consumption.

• Consumption of more than 80 g alcohol every day may increase the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) as compared to non-drinkers or people who consumed alcohol less than 40 g every day.

• Various epidemiological analyses have consistently shown a dose-response association between chronic alcohol intake and raised risk for breast cancer:

• According to the report of a meta-analysis, the breast cancer risk for one, two, or three or more drinks/day enhances by 10%, 20% and 40%, respectively. The reports indicated that nearly 4% of all newly identified breast cancer cases are due to alcohol abuse.

• It has been also estimated that people who consumed 50 g of alcohol every day found to have more risk of developing colorectal cancers compared to abstainers.

Let's see how the consumption of alcohol leads to cancer of various organs:

Alcohol and Types of Cancer

Liver Cancer

Alcohol intake is considered to be a leading cause of various liver diseases and liver cancer.

The underlying mechanism is the alcohol-associated liver carcinogenicity developed via liver cirrhosis, altered hepatic metabolism and genetic mutations. The chronic hepatitis C infection of liver and heavy alcohol consumption doubles the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma as compared to the risk for hepatitis C alone.

Esophageal Cancer

It has been noticed that 50 g of alcohol consumption two-fold enhances the esophageal cancer risk. The heavy alcohol intake leads to lower esophageal sphincter tone alterations and secondary motility disorders. This further leads to esophagitis, gastroesophageal reflux and intestinal metaplasia. All these create a suitable environment for cancer development.

Breast Cancer

Irrespective of the alcoholic beverage type, the alcohol intake higher than 27 drinks every week is associated with enhanced breast cancer risk. In post-menopausal females, drinking more than six drinks every week enhances the breast cancer risk.

The possible mechanisms behind this are enhanced mammary carcinogen DNA damage, increased mammary gland vulnerability to carcinogenesis and higher metastatic potential of breast cancer cells.

Pancreatic Cancer

Alcohol abuse is a major reason behind chronic pancreatitis and type 2 diabetes. These two health concerns show a significant association with pancreatic cancer.


Rising clinical and scientific evidence uphold the relationship between alcohol intake and cancers of various organs. Taking into account the enhancing trends in adolescent alcohol drinking and binge drinking in youngsters, further analyses are required on drinking patterns, alcohol intake over specific periods of life and genetic differences in cancer development.

“Save your life and limit the alcohol consumption to lower the risk of various cancers and other health problems”

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