Drinking alcohol can cause cancer. Research shows that men who have two
alcoholic drinks a day and women who have one alcoholic drink a day have
an increased chance of developing certain cancers. The more alcohol a
person consumes, the higher his or her risk of developing some kinds of
cancer. The way alcohol causes cancer is not completely understood. It could
be that alcohol itself causes cancer by increasing hormone levels or it may be
carcinogenic because of the way it is broken down in the body (metabolized),
which can make cells more vulnerable to other cancer-causing compounds
(carcinogens), like tobacco.
Strength of Evidence
Many research studies have established the relationship between alcohol
use and cancer. Risks due to alcohol vary depending on the kind of cancer.
The strongest associations between alcohol use and cancer are with mouth,
esophageal, laryngeal, pharyngeal, breast, and liver cancers. People who drink
heavily and smoke cigarettes or use other kinds of tobacco are at even higher
risk for most of these cancers.
Oral cancers are six times more common in alcohol users than in nonalcohol
users. About 75% to 80% of all patients with oral cancer consume alcohol
frequently. Smokers who also drink are at much higher risk.
Although the combination of tobacco and alcohol use significantly increases
the risk of developing esophageal cancer, alcohol use alone also increases the
risk of developing the disease.
Alcohol is also a primary cause of liver cancer. Deaths from liver cancer are
higher among heavy alcohol users than among individuals who do not drink.
By altering the liver's ability to metabolize some carcinogenic substances into
harmless compounds or to disable certain existing carcinogens, alcohol's
effects may influence not only liver cancer but other cancers as well.
Many studies have found an association between alcohol use and the risk of
breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed and
is highest among heavy alcohol us