Alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for cancer

Among male and female lifetime consumers, the risk for all the cancers increases with each additional drink a day.

Regular consumption of even 18g of alcohol per day increases the risk of breast cancer (18g is equivalent to just under: 2 regular glasses of wine or champagne, 1.3 pints of beer or nearly 6cl of whiskey)

Likewise, it is confirmed  an increased  risk in colorectal cancer for regular drinkers of 50g of alcohol per day.

Together, smoking and alcohol have a synergistic effect on cancer risk, meaning the combined effects of use are significantly greater than the sum of individual risks.

Alcohol use may contribute to weight (fat) gain, and greater body fatness is a convincing cause of cancer of the oesophagus, pancreas, bowel, endometrium, kidney and breast.

Alcohol attributable cancers:

- Upper airway tract (44%)

- liver cancer

- bowel cancer

- colorectal cancer (17%)

- breast cancer (5%)

Even though light to moderate alcohol consumption might decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease and mortality, the net effect of alcohol is harmful. Thus, alcohol consumption should not be recommended to prevent cardiovascular disease or all cause mortality.

Combined effects of drinking and smoking

For some cancers the combined effects of drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco greatly exceed the risk from either factor alone. Compare with non-smoking non drinkers, the approximate relative risks for developing mouth and throat cancers are up to 7 times greater for people who smoke tobacco, up to 6 times greater for those who drink alcohol, but more than 35 times greater for those who are regular, heavy users of both substances.

Combined effect of alcohol and smoking has been estimated to be responsible for more than 75% of cancer of the upper airway (throat, mouth etc) tract.

Alcohol and weight gain

From nutritional point of view, alcoholic drinks represent ‘empty calories’- they are high in calories but low in nutritional value; alcohol itself has a comparatively high energy content.Alcohol provides extra calories and slows fat and carbohydrate oxidation.

Alcohol as well as being direct cause of several cancer, might also contribute indirectly to those cancers associated with excess body fatness. There is convincing evidence that body fatness increases the risk of cancers of the oesophagus, pancreas, bowel, breast, endometrium and kidney.

Alcohol and heart disease

Earlier research which reported that low to moderate levels of alcohol consumption might reduce the incidence of heat disease might not have been fully accurate.  The potential benefits of moderate alcohol consumption on heart disease appear to be limited to middle aged and older people.

World Health Organisation  stated back in 2007 that ‘ (…)from both the public health and clinical viewpoints, there is no merit in promoting  alcohol consumption as a preventative strategy (…)’

Related Reading:

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
The Woman
I Need To Stop Drinking!
How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol (2nd edition)
Beyond the Influence: Understanding and Defeating Alcoholism