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February 1, 2018 | 3 minute read

Think Before You Drink: Rising Trend of Drinking can Cause More Cancers in the US

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is sounding alarm bells over the high levels of alcohol consumption in the U.S. and the lack of awareness about its direct link to six different types of cancers. Throughout the month of February, AICR will be leading an urgent nationwide campaign focused on raising awareness of the link between alcohol, a Group one carcinogen, and cancer.

“Our awareness survey showed that fewer than four in ten Americans realize that alcohol causes cancer. February is Cancer Prevention month, and is the ideal time to raise awareness on this growing public health crisis,” said Deirdre McGinley-Gieser, Senior Vice President, Programs at AICR.
According to the CDC, one in six US adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about eight drinks per binge. Binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks on an occasion for women, or 5 or more drinks on an occasion for men.

“These staggering statistics on alcohol consumption need immediate attention. Raising individual awareness through effective public health messaging can be one important way to get the word out about the risk of alcohol and cancer,” says Alice Bender, MS, RDN, AICR Director of Nutrition Programs.

AICR research shows that alcohol increases the risk of breast, colorectal, esophageal, liver, stomach, and mouth/pharynx/larynx cancers. For breast, colorectal, oral and stomach cancers, the increased risk is seen at even low levels of regular drinking. AICR’s latest report on breast cancer found that even one glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage on a daily basis can increase the risk of this cancer.

There are mechanistic studies that show that alcohol can cause permanent genetic damage. “As the body processes alcohol, it produces harmful chemicals that damage cells. Chronic exposure causes the damage to accumulate and potentially lead to cancer,” explains Dr. Nigel Brockton, Director of Research at AICR.

For cancer prevention, AICR counsels not drinking alcohol. If you do drink alcohol, AICR recommends limiting consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

Research shows that among adults drinking has increased across certain demographics, especially older Americans, minorities and people with lower levels of education and income. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women are drinking more alcohol as well as engaging more in binge and extreme drinking. Women who consume about one drink per day have a 5 – 9 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer than women who do not drink at all.

In order to draw attention to these trends, and to highlight cancer and alcohol link, AICR co-convened a symposium in partnership with U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance and IOGT International on Jan 30th.

Steps to Reduce Cancer Risk
For simple strategies and steps to lower cancer risk, AICR Can Prevent campaign includes a free 30-day Cancer Prevention Checklist. Visit aicr.org/can-prevent for this and more information on relevant research.

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