Over the last decade, there has been a proliferation in research focusing on the link between alcohol and cancer. The conclusion of this research is that alcohol consumption causes cancer. This includes cancer of larynx, cancer of the pancreas, cancer of the anus and cancer of the female breast amongst other varieties of cancer.
Scientists believe cancer causes at least 5000 different types of cancer. Drinking as little as 20ml of alcohol a day significantly increases the risk of you developing cancer. This dispels the myth that you must be a heavy drinker in order to increase the risks of developing cancer. However, although small amounts of alcohol can cause cancer, the more alcohol you drink, the greater the risk of developing cancer will be.
The idea that alcohol causes health benefits is thus a myth. Alcohol and its by-products are toxic and carcinogenic so you should really try to avoid alcohol completely or at least reduce the amount of alcohol you consume.
Types of cancer caused by alcohol
Below we outline a number of cancers believed to be caused by drinking alcohol. Please note that alcohol is believed to cause around 5000 different types of cancer, so the below is intended as a general overview:
#1. Alcohol and breast cancer
Drinking any form of alcohol is known to increase the risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. This is because drinking alcohol directly increases the levels of estrogen. Scientists also believe that alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer because alcohol damages DNA.
How much alcohol must you consume to increase this risk? Well, researchers are unable to give you a precise figure but drinking around three drinks a week is believed to increase the risk of breast cancer by around 15%. If you drink four drinks per week, this risk rises to 25%.
Many women may believe their moderate drinking will not increase their risks of developing breast cancer. Clearly, this belief is misguided. In fact, drinking as little as 20 ml of alcohol per day increases the risk of developing breast cancer. That’s why no amount of drinking can be considered ‘safe’ or ‘healthy.’
Drinking alcohol also increases the risk of developing benign breast lumps. These non-cancerous lumps may cause cancer in later years. The risk of developing benign breast lumps is particularly high for teenage girls who choose to drink alcohol on a regular basis.
When you socialise with your friends, drink water, soda or a ‘mocktail’ instead of an alcoholic drink. Being social does not have to entail drinking alcohol.
#2. Head and neck cancer
If you drink an excessive amount of alcohol, you increase the risk of developing cancerous tumours on your neck and head region. Specific areas of the head and neck that are particularly at risk include the lips, the pharynx and the larynx. If you drink as little as two to three drinks per day, you increase these risks by as much as 300% compare to people who do not choose to drink alcohol. These risks are compounded when you mix alcohol with tobacco.
Types of head and neck cancer caused by alcohol consumption include:
- Mouth cancer (oral cavity)
- Throat cancer (pharynx, oropharynx and hypopharynx)
- Voice box cancer (larynx)
#3. Esophageal cancer
If you drink alcohol on a regular basis, you risk developing a form of esophageal cancer known as esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. This form of cancer is particularly common for people suffering from a genetic problem that prevents then from metabolising alcohol.
#4. Liver cancer
Alcohol causes a form of liver cancer known as hepatocellular carcinoma. Chronic alcoholism may also cause cancer indirectly through the development of hepatitis B and C.
#5. Colorectal cancer
Drinking alcohol is also known to increase the risks of developing rectum and colon cancer.
#6. Other forms of cancer
Although no substantive proof exists, alcohol may also contribute to the development of bladder, stomach, uterus, prostate and ovary cancer.