Alcohol and Cancer


The researchers cited the change in public perceptions and tighter regulations for tobacco, which show the importance of public health campaigns and physicians explaining risks to their patients. Dr. Klein noted, “[In] less than half a century, we’ve seen major changes in the way people think about tobacco.” Participants in the survey are a nationally representative sample of adults aged 18 and older. The nearly 4,000 people who took part in the survey were asked how much does drinking several types of alcohol (wine, beer, and liquor) affect the risk of getting cancer. Nearly 4% of cancers diagnosed worldwide in 2020 can be attributed to alcohol consumption, according to the World Health Organization.

How Can the Public Be Made Aware of the Cancer Risk From Alcohol?

Ethanol is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks, whether they are beers, wines, liquors (distilled spirits), or other drinks. Alcoholic drinks contain different percentages of ethanol, but in general, a standard size drink of any type — 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor — contains about the same amount of ethanol (about half an ounce). Alcohol probably also increases the risk of cancer of the stomach, and might affect the risk of some other cancers as well. Given the study’s findings, “there’s also a need to better understand why so many cancer survivors have such high alcohol consumption,” she continued. Greater collaboration with other specialties and clinicians who regularly interact with people with cancer, such as oncology nurses, to develop ways to reduce risky drinking behaviors will be needed moving forward, Dr. Agurs-Collins said. Binge drinking was most common among men, people under the age of 50, and former and current smokers.

Study Probes Awareness of Alcohol’s Link to Cancer

High-risk UPFs also include sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened drinks, including sodas and even 100 per cent fruit juice. The NCI Alcohol and Cancer Risk Fact Sheet provides a broad overview of alcohol as a risk factor for cancer, and three recent papers explore Division interest in alcohol awareness (7,8) and research needs related to alcohol and cancer prevention and control (9). Drinking alcohol can also lead to oxidative stress in cells, causing them to create more reactive oxygen species (chemically reactive molecules that contain oxygen). More cancers could be prevented, she says, if people fully understood the risks of alcohol. Understanding these risks would lead to more fully informed decisions about alcohol use among individuals and families, including cancer survivors and those with a family cancer history.

9. Liver Cirrhosis

Over time, heavy drinking can cause inflammation (hepatitis) and heavy scarring (cirrhosis) in the liver. Heavy drinking can also damage other organs, such as the pancreas and the brain, and can raise blood pressure. 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.

Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta is a science communicator who believes in spreading the power of science in every corner of the world. She has a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree and a Master’s of Science (M.Sc.) in biology and human physiology. Following her Master’s degree, Sanchari went on to study a Ph.D. in human physiology. She has authored more than 10 original research articles, all of which have been published in world renowned international journals. Researchers tackle liver cancer in multiple ways, including the possible development of a biomarker.

Addressing knowledge gaps related to alcohol-cancer communication has potential to increase awareness and affect alcohol consumption behavior. However, some individuals with the defective form of ALDH2 can become tolerant to the unpleasant effects of acetaldehyde and consume large amounts of alcohol. Epidemiologic studies have shown that such individuals have a higher risk of alcohol-related esophageal cancer, as well as of head and neck cancers, than individuals with the fully active enzyme who drink comparable amounts of alcohol (31). These increased risks are seen only among people who carry the ALDH2 variant and drink alcohol—they are not observed in people who carry the variant but do not drink alcohol.

According to the study’s findings, male long-term survivors and younger people being treated for cancer were among those who were particularly likely to be heavy or frequent drinkers. When they further analyzed their data incorporating former drinkers and including the two cancers possibly linked to alcohol, the numbers went up significantly. “When we did the analysis and included former drinking, pancreatic and stomach cancers, the numbers increased to 925,000 alcohol-related cancers,” she said. That’s an additional 185,000 possible alcohol-related cancers, or 5% of all the world’s cancers. A simplification of the pathways by which alcohol, as ethanol, might drive carcinogenesis. The enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), cytochrome P-450 2E1 (CYP2E1), and catalase metabolise ethanol to acetaldehyde; acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) enzymes then metabolise acetaldehyde to acetate but common polymorphisms can reduce ALDH activity.

Following epidemiological evidence of the link between alcohol use and risk of cancer at multiple sites, several pathways have been investigated to explain the carcinogenic effects of alcohol. Here, we discuss the key mechanisms linking alcohol consumption to carcinogenesis, which are depicted in Figure 4. Alcohol drinking disorders can lead to liver fibrosis and cirrhosis (12)–an established cause of liver cancer. Drinking raises the risk of several types of cancer, including colon, liver, breast and mouth and throat. Alcohol breaks down in the body into a substance called acetaldehyde, which can damage your cells and stop them from repairing themselves. Alcohol use is one of the most important preventable risk factors for cancer, along with tobacco use and excess body weight.

As ROS are highly reactive, their presence can lead to lipid peroxidation producing aldehydes which can bind to DNA forming etheno-DNA adducts [29,30]. These ethe-DNA adducts, namely 1,N6-ethenodeoxyadenosine and 3,N4-ethenodeoxycytidine, are highly mutagenic as they lead to mutations in several genes involved in key cell cycle regulation and tumour suppression [21]. A person’s psilocybin magic mushrooms uses effects & hazards risk of alcohol-related cancers is influenced by their genes, specifically the genes that encode enzymes involved in metabolizing (breaking down) alcohol (27). Researchers from Harvard University conducted a 30-year analysis of more than 110,000 health professionals in the United States and discovered a strong correlation between UPF consumption and increased mortality rates.

The authors concluded that previous estimates of the association between alcohol and oral and oropharyngeal cancer from observational studies may have been underestimated [16]. Another MR study on UK Biobank data found that drinking alcohol, especially above the UK’s low-risk guideline of up to 14 units per week, was causally related the ultimate guide to alcohol recovery books with head and neck cancers, but not breast cancer [17]. A further updated MR study using UK Biobank data did not find an association between alcohol exposure and cancer of any site, though they noted limitations of a lack of precision in their analyses due to low variance explained by the single nucleotide polymorphisms [18].

The December 2020 NCI Workshop highlighted existing evidence on the alcohol-cancer link, and revealed opportunities to strengthen relevant scientific knowledge. Additionally, the workshop panel recognized that the health, including cancer, impact of increases in alcohol consumption resulting from the coronavirus pandemic (60) will need to be carefully assessed, particularly if these behaviors are sustained long-term. Most U.S. campaigns to increase public awareness about the health effects of alcohol consumption have focused on underage drinking, binge drinking, or drinking and driving (37–39). Studies conducted in other countries suggest potential efficacy of communication strategies to increase cancer-relevant awareness. For example, a Canadian container label intervention demonstrated a 10% greater increase in knowledge of alcohol as a carcinogen in the intervention vs. the comparison group two months post-intervention (40).

  1. It’s the first time, Rumgay says, that research has quantified the risks of different levels of drinking.
  2. She has authored more than 10 original research articles, all of which have been published in world renowned international journals.
  3. Factors that predict awareness of the association are not completely understood (36).
  4. Alcohol can raise the levels of estrogen, a hormone important in the growth and development of breast tissue.
  5. Once in the body, alcohol can be converted into acetaldehyde, a chemical that can damage the DNA inside cells and has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals.

Alcoholic drinks contain ethanol, which is a known carcinogen, and there are several ways in which it may cause cancer. For example, ethanol can increase estrogen in the body, which increases the risk of breast cancer. The breakdown of ethanol in the body can also create high levels of acetaldehyde, which can damage DNA and cause liver, head and neck, and esophageal cancers. A high proportion of American adults, both drinkers and non-drinkers (35), are unaware of the association between alcohol consumption and cancer risk. Factors that predict awareness of the association are not completely understood (36). However, the fact that most Americans are unaware of the association suggests effective evidence-based strategies are needed to increase awareness, encourage informed decision making, modify health behavior, and develop policies to reduce consumption.

Using the data from All of Us does come with some limitations, they acknowledged, including that cancer diagnoses were self-reported and couldn’t be verified in every case. And because of the study’s nature, it can also create certain “biases” in the data that may affect its accuracy or how relevant it is to the larger population of people with cancer and long-term survivors. Overall, about 12,000 people in this group reported that they drink alcohol, and nearly 40% reported engaging in hazardous drinking—that is, repeated excessive alcohol use.

Toll said there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to alcohol use and the impact it could have on health. According to a National Cancer Institute article, some people measure a standard drink by how much they can fit in a single glass. However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines a standard drink as 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. It doesn’t matter how much you drink – the risk to the drinker’s health starts from the first drop of any alcoholic beverage. To conduct the study, the researchers used data from more than 15,000 people with a history of cancer who were participating in the National Institutes of Health All of Us Research Program. What that means is that nations in those areas of Africa should be thinking now about strategies to control drinking.

However, some of the associations among alcohol drinking premenopausal women were limited to those taking oral contraceptives [40]. The effects of alcohol consumption on cancer risk have been studied for many decades clindamycin hcl oral and an association with alcohol has been observed for multiple cancer sites. Here, we discuss evidence from large meta-analyses of observational studies and emerging evidence from Mendelian randomisation studies.


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