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No level of alcohol consumption is safe for our health

For people being treated for cancer, regularly consuming a few beers or cocktails also has other potentially harmful consequences, including making their treatments less effective. And for longer-term cancer survivors, there is some evidence that regular alcohol does drinking alcohol cause cancer use may increase the chances of their cancer returning. With the immune system being compromised, alcohol consumption can exacerbate damage from viral infections such as hepatitis C virus, which is common among chronic alcoholic liver disease patients [43].

  1. And although people who identified as Hispanic were less likely than White participants to report drinking alcohol, those who did drink were more likely to drink heavily.
  2. The first mutation is a loss-of-function mutation in the gene for the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2).
  3. Where appropriate, investigators should consider co-occurrence of alcohol use with other cancer-related behavioral risk factors (e.g., tobacco use, sun exposure, physical activity, sleep disturbances) when designing interventions.
  4. She agrees with the authors that the results are, if anything, an understatement of the impact of alcohol on cancer cases.

Cancer information, answers, and hope. Available every minute of every day.

In addition, heavy episodic alcohol use might reduce the immune system’s defence against infection by disrupting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and increasing the expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines [33]. This is contrary to the increased expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines due to chronic alcohol exposure as discussed with other evidence on alcohol-induced inflammation (Section 3.3). In addition to associations from epidemiological studies, multiple mechanistic pathways through which alcohol can cause cancer have been proposed. In this review, we aim to summarise the epidemiological evidence on alcohol and cancer risk and the mechanistic evidence of alcohol-driven carcinogenesis. We searched the PubMed and Cochrane databases for reviews, umbrella reviews, meta-analyses, and Mendelian randomisation studies on total alcohol use and cancer risk and mechanisms of alcohol-related carcinogenesis published up until June 2021. We also searched the WCRF’s Continuous Update Project reports for meta-analyses on alcohol consumption and cancer risk.

What happens to cancer risk after a person stops drinking alcohol?

Alcohol use accounts for about 6% of all cancers and 4% of all cancer deaths in the United States. There likely are additional cancers linked to drinking alcohol, Dr. Orlow says, but more well-designed studies (epidemiological and other) are needed to prove that alcohol is a contributing risk factor. The public is largely unaware of the link between alcohol consumption and increased cancer risk. Globally, the WHO European Region has the highest alcohol consumption level and the highest proportion of drinkers in the population. Here, over 200 million people in the Region are at risk of developing alcohol-attributable cancer. Educating the public about the cancer risk from drinking alcohol, regardless of the beverage type, is especially urgent given the increase in drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Klein said.

Quitting Smoking Improves Lung Cancer Survival

While studies have provided evidence on alcohol’s carcinogenic potential, further understanding of alcohol’s pathways to cancer development will inform the direction of future research. This information is useful to corroborate existing evidence, develop chemoprevention strategies, and could improve cancer therapy, but there is already a wealth of evidence to support the need for further alcohol control and cancer prevention efforts. We have discussed evidence on mechanistic and epidemiological research in the field, and this information must be used to decrease the burden of cancers, as well as other diseases and injuries, attributable to alcohol. The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) also conducts classification of physical and dietary components and their potential cancerous effects as part of their Continuous Update Project. The WCRF base their conclusions on the quality of epidemiological evidence and carry out meta-analyses of the association with cancer risk. There is strong and consistent evidence that drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing a cancer, based on a growing body of research.


Many observational studies have been conducted to identify and define the risks from drinking alcohol and cancer development. Some limitations in these studies have been identified, such as lack of sufficient adjustment of confounding factors, for example tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption are both common risk factors for oral cavity cancer. There are also concerns around reverse causality, with the reference categories of alcohol non-drinkers possibly including former drinkers who still have an elevated risk of cancer. There are other concerns over the accuracy of recording of alcohol exposure data where bias may be incorporated through non-participation of heavy drinkers in health studies, and under-reporting of alcohol consumption by the study subjects.

Another study found that using multiple and diverse information sources can reduce alcohol use intentions as compared to reliance on a single source (41). Another enzyme, called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2), metabolizes toxic acetaldehyde to nontoxic substances. Some people, particularly those of East Asian descent, carry a variant of the gene for ALDH2 that encodes a defective form of the enzyme.

Only a few studies have tried to capture the drinking behaviors of cancer survivors, including those still undergoing treatment, said Dr. Agurs-Collins, who was not involved in this new study. And little has been done to understand how to help those who are heavier drinkers change their behavior. And as a physician, she thinks about the things she can say individually to a patient, one on one, to encourage them to reduce their drinking. “There’s pretty good data that you can get people to decrease their alcohol consumption with brief motivational information,” she said. It’s the first time, Rumgay says, that research has quantified the risks of different levels of drinking. “Our study highlights the contribution of even relatively low levels of alcohol to the risk of new cancer cases,” says Rumgay.

Total protein carbonyl content was assessed as a measure of oxidatively damaged proteins. To this end, alcohol exposure significantly increased the accumulation of oxidatively damaged proteins in both 5 natural ways to overcome erectile dysfunction differentiated and undifferentiated cells after 12 or 24 hours of exposure. However, this accumulation was significantly higher in differentiated cells after 12 hours of exposure to 50 mM ethanol.

That advice was considered and rejected when the federal recommendations came out in 2020. One drink is the equivalent of about one 12-ounce can of drug addiction articles beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or a shot of liquor. Guidelines vary a lot from country to country but the overall trend is toward drinking less.

Low folate levels may play a role in the risk of some cancers, such as breast and colorectal cancer. But for some types of cancer, most notably breast cancer, consuming even small amounts of alcohol can increase risk. But most Americans aren’t aware of this link, thanks to seemingly contradictory research and mixed messaging from public health experts. A study published in 2023 found widespread mistaken beliefs that the risk varies by beverage type, with the lowest cancer risk assigned to wine.

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