alcohol, getting cancer

The American Society of Clinical Oncology is warning us that alcohol increases the risk of getting cancer (Journal of Clinical Oncology, online Nov. 7, 2017). What might that mean in practical terms?

What Is the Link Between Drinking Alcohol and Getting Cancer?

Heavy drinkers are far more likely than teetotalers to develop cancer of the mouth and throat, liver, larynx and colon. Women who drink even modestly are more prone to breast cancer. Drinkers are also more susceptible to esophageal cancer.

While more Americans are drinking than in previous decades, few recognize that alcohol can contribute to the risk of getting cancer. Worldwide, more than 5 percent of cancers are attributable to alcohol. The risk rises with increased alcohol consumption.

What Should Be Done About This Link?

ASCO recommends that states screen adults for excess alcohol consumption, restrict alcohol advertising to young people, enforce the laws prohibiting alcohol sales to minors and limit the opportunities for people to purchase alcohol. Presumably, these measures would reduce the number of people drinking.

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  1. John
    Croydon, PA

    What about alcohol in mouthwash?

  2. Ellen

    My father had his third and debilitating stroke after 40 years of heavy, daily drinking. He was also a heavy smoker (3 packs per day, unfiltered Camels) from the age of 16. At 59 1/2 he had a his third stroke (while intoxicated) which was major and debilitating.

    He lived another 15 1/2 years in Nursing Homes, paralyzed on his left side. Confined to a wheelchair, he was allowed 4 or so smoking breaks per day (mostly outside) and rarely had anything alcoholic.

    He still developed cancer of the mouth (it was successfully treated) but he died at age 74 never having recovered mobility. Deadly (but very common) combination = drinking and smoking.

  3. Ricik
    Moorhead Dude

    It would seem ingesting ETOH is very similar to ingesting other food, drink, chemical, toxin, medicinal. It very much depends on your microbiome, and on your genetics. I don’t care what your risk factors are, your most enormous one is age.

    So, if you have been gifted with a likeable microbiome, and a great genetic make up, and for the most part of your life, a healthy, unstressed liver, you can do amazing things with alcohol, and for a very long time. Just look at James Bond, and myself… and as long as you don’t get shot, you will do just fine for 80 years. No pun intended on the shot thing.

  4. John S.
    Southern California

    I was curious a few months ago about the amount of alcohol consumption that Kaiser Hospital considered as a guide line. The recomendation level that was acceptable listed on their site was: Men no more than 2 times a day, I assumed from this 14 drinks a week and Women listed as 1/2 this amount. Many years ago I had read that Women were more likely to become Alcoholic than men.

    Inspite of my Irish blood my limit has only been a few on Holidays. I am currently 89 years old and a few months back celebrated our 67th Wedding Anniversary. We are both in above average health.
    Regards and keep up the good work, John

  5. sherry

    I believe it. My father was a heavy drinker or high functioning alcoholic as people now say. He died at age 62 from cancer – not sure if there was a kind. My mother described it as “all body”.

  6. Maureen
    South Africa

    Have we thought long and hard about the ingredients in alcohol?
    Can we change anything, maybe its other ingredients in wine for e.g., that are the problem.
    Or the way wine is processed?
    Just a thought.

  7. Frank
    Port St Lucie, FL

    I have no reason to argue what alcohol can do, however, when there is talk of restricting advertising and availability to the legal public, that’s where I have a problem. Government intervention rarely works well. The fact that the gov’t stopped cigarette advertising back in 1970 only proves the power the gov’t wields. Alcohol and tobacco are both legal products; consequently tobacco products should be allowed to be advertised. The same goes for tobacco lawsuits. The data and warnings are all there and yet, to this day, lawsuits are initiated against the tobacco companies. Wrong! What we need is more public awareness about the dangers of these scourges. Everyone needs to take personal responsibility for themselves and not seek out cash rewards for mistakes they knowingly made.

  8. Dip K.

    I am very happy about your suggestion to avoid alcohol but is it OK to drink on normal scale for normal and healthy people?

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