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The Facts About Alcohol

Are alcoholic drinks linked to cancer?

There is convincing evidence that alcoholic beverages increase risk of cancers of the:

  • Mouth
  • Pharynx
  • Larynx
  • Esophagus
  • Breast (both pre- and post-menopausal)
  • Colorectum (in men)

Drinking alcoholic beverages probably increases risk of:

  • Colorectal cancer in women
  • Liver cancer

Why does drinking alcoholic beverages increase cancer risk?

Tissues of the body directly exposed to alcohol (such as the mouth and esophagus) may suffer cell damage that can spark the cancer process.

Years of drinking can lead to liver damage that may eventually turn to liver cancer.

Although an association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer keeps turning up in study after study, the precise reason for the link is not yet clear. More research is needed.

Should I avoid alcohol completely to lower my cancer risk?

Even small amounts of alcohol increase your risk for certain cancers, so AICR does not recommend alcohol consumption.

However, moderate alcohol consumption may help protect against coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Moderate consumption means:

  • no more than one drink per day for women
  • no more than two drinks per day for men

Heavier drinking raises the risk of:

  • cancer
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • stroke
  • osteoporosis
  • malnutrition
  • inflammation of the pancreas
  • damage to the brain
  • liver cirrhosis
  • accidents, violence and suicide.

Alcohol causes birth defects too. If you are pregnant or may become pregnant, do not drink any alcohol.

Why is moderate drinking different for men and women?

Women metabolize alcohol more slowly than men, so alcohol stays in a woman’s bloodstream longer. Also, men tend to have more muscle than women; alcohol can be diluted into water held in muscle tissue, but not in fat tissue.

A woman’s risk for breast cancer – the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women – increases with greater alcohol consumption. Women at high risk for breast cancer should consider not drinking.

Alcoholic Drinks

One drink equals:

1 bottle or can (12 fluid ounces) of regular beer, approximately 140 -180 calories

1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof liquor such as bourbon and vodka, approximately 100 calories

5 fluid ounces of wine, approximately 100-140 calories

Published on June 23, 2011

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