Alcohol & Cancer
Does alcohol use really cause cancer?
Yes. Alcohol increases your risk for at least seven types of cancer.
- Voice Box
- Female Breast
Alcohol may be a risk factor for other cancers, such as pancreatic, gastric and lung cancer, but more research is needed.
How much do I need to drink to raise my cancer risk?
Any amount of alcohol – event low levels of drinking – increases your risk for cancer. But the more you drink and the longer you drink, the higher your risk. This is especially true for head and neck cancers.
Alcohol use contributes to about 3.5% of all cancer deaths and 15% of breast cancer deaths in the US.
North Carolina is on the right track! More than 50% of adults in our state do NOT drink regularly. Together we can promote wellness and reduce the negative impact of alcohol in our communities.
“Excessive drinking” includes heavy drinking and binge drinking.
- Heavy drinking = 8+ drinks per week
- Binge drinking = 4+ drinks in 2-3 hours.
- Heavy drinking = 15+ drinks per week
- Binge drinking = 5+ drinks in 2-3 hours.
Is alcohol as important as other cancer risk factors?
Yes. Alcohol use has a greater effect on your cancer risk than occupational hazards, UV radiation, or protective behaviors like physical exercise and best feeding (while tobacco use, diet, and obesity are greater risk (factors).
Does the type of alcohol I drink matter?
No. The type of alcohol you drink – wine, beer, or liquor – does not matter when it comes to cancer risk.
How exactly does alcohol cause cancer?
Researchers have identified many ways alcohol can cause cancer.
- When alcohol breaks down in your body, the process produces something called acetaldehyde, which is a carcinogen.
- Alcohol can impair your body’s ability to break down and absorb certain nutrients associated with cancer risk.
- For women, alcohol can increase your body’s levels of estrogen, which has links to breast cancer.
If you smoke and drink, your cancer risk is greater than for people who only smoke or drink.
Did You Know?
According to a recent study, only 30% of Americans know alcohol use can cause cancer. The damaging effects of drinking can get overlooked in a culture that too often associates alcohol use with a healthy lifestyle. The alcohol industry sends us messages that contradict the facts, which can be hard to figure out. Do you wonder, what exactly does “heavy drinking” mean? What is “responsible”, “lower risk” or “moderate” drinking? How much is a “drink” anyway? Read on for straight-forward answers to your questions.
Risk VS. Reward
But red wine is good for my heart, right?
Some past studies have shown a relationship between red wine and decreased heart disease risk. But researchers believe this relationship likely has been overstated. The connection may be explained by other lifestyle factors, such as increased physical activity among wine drinkers. The American Heart Association does not recommend drinking wine to gain these benefits. And heavy drinking can lead to serious heart problems.
What can I do to decrease my cancer risk?
Drink less! And avoid excessive drinking. If you don’t drinking, don’t start. If you do choose to drink, experts recommend you do so only occasionally: no more than one drink per day for women; no more than two drinks per day for men. Remember, any amount of alcohol raises your risk!
Think you may be drinking too much? Consider ways to cut down or quit. Concerned about your cancer risk? Start by talking with your health care provider.
What is “a drink”?
Alcohol beverages that are packaged or sold in larger sizes or with higher alcohol content are considered to be MORE than one drink. In the US, one standard drink is defined as:
Alcohol can cause cancer. Here’s what to do…
- Cut back or quit.
- Share this information with friends, family, and colleagues.
- Discourage underage and excessive alcohol use and urge your community to change its alcohol environment.
- National Cancer Instiute:
- American Cancer Society:
- American Society of Clinical Oncology:
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