ASCO: Alcohol Linked to Several Types of Cancer


Doctors at the American Society of Clinical Oncology have linked both light and heavy drinking to a number of cancers, including breast, esophagus, liver, larynx, colon, head and neck. It "shows they're serious about it and willing to put their name on the line for changes in policy, and willing to say that even small amounts of alcohol can increase the risks of some cancers to a small degree".

The researchers also stated that if the drinker ceases consuming alcohol for 20 years or more, the possibility of cancer regresses back to that of non-drinkers.

"People are not aware of this", said Susan Gapstur, a vice-president of the American Cancer Society who was not involved with the position statement.

Support efforts to eliminate the use of "pinkwashing" to market alcoholic beverages. "The good news is that, just like people wear sunscreen to limit their risk of skin cancer, limiting alcohol intake is one more thing people can do to reduce their overall risk of developing cancer". Ashton adds that if you pour more than these standard serving sizes, it counts for more than one drink. Although the greatest risks were found in heavy drinkers, some risks were also observed in moderate drinkers.

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The organization is particularly concerned because 70 percent of Americans don't recognize alcoholic consumption as a cancer risk factor, based on the National Cancer Opinion Survey, which the ASCO conducted earlier in 2017.

"The more you drink, the higher the risk", said Dr. Clifford A. Hudis, the chief executive of ASCO. "And in female breast cancer, (alcohol) affects the levels of female hormones in the body, and by adjusting the levels of estrogen in particular, it increases risk of breast cancer".

Ashton said that moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to an average of one drink a day for women (or seven drinks per week) and two drinks a day for men (or 14 drinks a week). Heavy drinkers face roughly five times the risk of mouth and throat cancers and squamous cell esophageal cancers than nondrinkers, almost three times the risk of cancers of the voice box or larynx, double the risk of liver cancer, as well as increased risks for female breast cancer and colorectal cancer. "It is really the heavy drinkers over a long period of time that we need to worry about", she said. This knowledge empowers doctors "to help their patients reduce their risk of cancer".