Health In Focus
  • Alcohol has been found to be associated with seven different cancers.
  • The risk of cancer multiplies when you smoke as well as drink.
  • The risk of cancer is irrespective of the amount of alcohol intake.
Drinking alcohol is considered as a sign of social status by some, however this social habit may not be so glamorous after all. Alcohol is associated with seven types of cancer, namely those affecting the mouth and throat, larynx or sound box, esophagus or food pipe, liver, colon or large bowel, rectum and the female breast. These findings were published online in the Addiction.
Alcohol and Smoking Multiply the Risk for Cancer
Alcohol and Smoking Multiply the Risk for Cancer

Smoking has been definitely linked to lung cancer through various epidemiological studies. The position of alcohol with regards to its cancer-causing ability, however, has not been so definite. Although alcohol causes several problems like those related to the liver, brain as well as social issues, red wine was considered as being good for the heart, and therefore social drinkers had enough excuse to have an extra peg.

A review study analyzed various studies and came to the following conclusions:
  • Alcohol-attributable cancers contribute to around 5.8% of all cancer deaths world-wide.
  • The association is particularly strong for cancers of the upper digestive tract, that is, of the mouth, pharynx and esophagus. In addition, alcohol also increases the risk of cancer of the liver, colon, rectum and the female breast
  • The type of alcohol does not matter. Alcohol of any kind is associated with an increased risk.
  • It does not matter how much you drink. Cancers may still arise in light women drinkers
  • The risk for cancers of the throat and the liver however appears to be reversible, and comes down once the person stops drinking. This suggests that even if you have been drinking for a long time, not all is lost. You still have a chance to give it up.
  • Genetic factors also play a role in the susceptibility to cancers.
  • Smoking further increases the cancer risk of alcohol, and unfortunately, has a multiplicative effect.
  • Alcohol may also increase the risk for other cancers like those of the pancreas, prostate and skin. It does not increase the risk of adenocarcinoma of food pipe, upper stomach, endometrium or inner lining of the uterus, and urinary bladder and has a possible negative association with thyroid cancer, Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas and renal cell cancer.
The exact mechanism how alcohol causes cancer is not known. Alcohol or ethanol is converted into acetaldehyde by the saliva as well as by the liver. Acetaldehyde has carcinogenic potential, which may be responsible for the cancer-causing effects of alcohol. Its additive effect with tobacco can be explained by the possibility that alcohol increases the penetration of carcinogenic tobacco constituents through the mucus membranes of the mouth and throat. This theory could possibly explain the increased risk of head and neck cancers in these patients.

References :
  1. Connor J. Alcohol consumption as a cause of cancer. DOI: 10.1111/add.13477
Source: Medindia

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