Is Drinking Alcohol Safe? Heavy Use Could Lead To Cancer


"Alcohol use - whether light, moderate, or heavy - is linked with increasing the risk of several leading cancers, including those of the breast, colon, esophagus, and head and neck", ASCO said in a statement issued Tuesday, following publication of new materials addressing public opinion on the risks associated with drinking. Research highlighted by the National Cancer Institute suggests that the more alcohol you drink - particularly the more you drink regularly - the higher your risk of developing cancer.

Yet few adults, when asked, identify alcohol consumption as a risk factor for cancer, even though the vast majority were familiar with other cancer risk factors, like smoking and sun exposure, a recent ASCO survey of 4,016 adults found.

The organization also wants to end the "pinkwashing" of alcoholic beverages.

In a phone interview, Gapstur stressed that people living with cancer remain at risk for other cancers so it's important that they realize alcohol's role in cancer recurrence, too. While it is okay to drink occasionally (read rarely), you shouldn't be making a habit out of it.

Liver cancer is caused by cirrhosis, which is in turn caused by drinking. Approximately 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the US, that is about 19,500 deaths are alcohol related, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

ABC News' chief medical correspondent, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, said that alcohol has been a known human carcinogen, or known to cause cancer, for a long time within the medical community.

The ASCO defines heavy drinking as "eight or more drinks per week or three or more drinks per day for women, and as many as fifteen or more drinks per week or four or more drinks per day for men". Dr. Bruce Johnson, president of the ASCO, an organization of cancer doctors, said in a statement that People habitually do not relate to drinking, wine and hard liquor with rising risk of developing cancer in their lifespan. She's an associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin.

Since then, she said, more and more evidence has accumulated tying alcohol to a broader group of cancers, including colorectal cancer and, in women, breast cancer.

"Life as an oncologist is all about teaching people about moderation", she said.

Even those who drink moderately, defined by the Centers for Disease Control as one daily drink for women and two for men, face almost a doubling of the risk for mouth and throat cancer and more than double the risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus, compared to nondrinkers.