Alcohol and cancer
There is no scientific consensus on why some people develop cancer and others don’t. Your genes
and your lifestyle choices interact, and together they make up your risk of developing cancer.
This means that your patterns of drinking, the amount you drink and your dependence on alcohol
are all factors in your risk of developing alcohol-related cancers. Other lifestyle factors – whether
you smoke, take drugs, eat healthily and exercise regularly – are also relevant to the development
of cancer, as is your genetic make-up. This is probably true for all cancers, but the actual genes
responsible for this have only been found in some types of cancer, such as breast cancer.
FACTS and FIGURES
It is clear from a number of large scale studies
that there is a link between alcohol consumption
and cancer. One in five (20%) of all alcohol-related
deaths are due to cancer.(1) This makes it the
second largest cause of deaths due to alcohol,
after intentional and unintentional injuries.
These studies clearly show that people with higher
levels of alcohol consumption are more likely to
develop certain kinds of cancer. The strongest
associations with alcohol consumption are for
liver cancer and bowel cancer. But alcohol is also
definitely associated with an increased risk of
developing breast cancer and mouth cancer.
Recent studies have found that even moderate
alcohol consumption can increase the risk of
developing breast cancer. The largest of these is
the Million Women Study, run by Oxford University.
This is an ongoing study involving 1.3 million
women across the UK.(2) Data has been gathered
about the lifestyle, medical history, health and
habits of the participants. Scientists have made a
link between moderate drinking and developing
breast cancer. Overall, women have a 9.5%
chance of getting breast cancer before they are
75. One study found that drinking every day – even
a small amount – raises that risk to 10.6%.(3)
Liver cancer is