Alcohol Risk Cited by Cancer Doctors

Ray Weaver
November 9, 2017

On November 7, the nation's top oncologists released a statement through the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to draw attention to the connection between alcohol and cancer risk.

Between five and six percent of new cancers and cancer deaths globally are directly attributed to alcohol, yet only 38 percent of Americans limit their intake of alcohol to reduce their risk for cancer, the organization wrote. Alcohol consumption can also "delay or negatively impact cancer treatment", the authors noted.

Ashton said that moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to an average of one drink a day for women (or seven drinks per week) and two drinks a day for men (or 14 drinks a week).

Dr. LoConte said it's not just wine.

To reduce the risks, the statement includes several recommendations. The ASCO report puts that debate to bed: "The answer is that associations between alcohol drinking and cancer risk have been observed consistently regardless of the specific type of alcoholic beverage", it says. "And in female breast cancer, (alcohol) affects the levels of female hormones in the body, and by adjusting the levels of estrogen in particular, it increases risk of breast cancer".

The recent study also found, for example, that vigorous exercise was linked with a significant decrease in breast cancer risk.

"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.

Although heavy, long-term, drinkers were found to have the greatest risks of developing cancer, even modest alcohol consumption may increase cancer risk, researchers said in the publication.

"The story of alcohol has been quite consistent and has been peeled away like an onion over time, and we're continuing to learn more about the mechanisms involved", Dr. Gapstur said.

In a phone interview, Gapstur stressed that people living with cancer remain at risk for other cancers so it's important that they realize alcohol's role in cancer recurrence, too.

As we head into the holiday season, you may want to keep the following findings in mind before allowing yourself to indulge in an extra festive drink or two. The formation of acetaldehyde starts when alcohol comes in contact with bacteria in the mouth, which may explain the link between alcohol and cancers of the throat, voice box and esophagus, she suggested.

"The evidence is very clear", she said. There's been a lot of talk touting certain alcohols, such as red wine, as cancer-fighting elixirs and superfoods - but these medical professionals reveal a bleak, risky reality of drinking.

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