Alcohol Causes 7 Types of Cancer—at Least

Drink only a little? You're still at risk
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2016 8:47 AM CDT
Alcohol Causes 7 Types of Cancer—at Least
Bottles of liquor are seen at a store in Carmel, Ind.   (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Health experts are calling for warning labels on booze, like those on tobacco products, based on a new study that finds alcohol is a direct cause of at least seven forms of cancer. Drink only a little? You're still at risk, scientists write in the journal Addiction. After reviewing 10 years' worth of data from agencies including the World Cancer Research Fund, researchers conclude drinking is a direct cause of not just liver cancer, but also cancer of the colon, rectum, breast, oropharynx, larynx, and esophagus, reports the Guardian. "The highest risks are associated with the heaviest drinking but a considerable burden is experienced by drinkers with low to moderate consumption," says study author Jennie Connor. She tells the Telegraph there's actually no safe level of drinking in reference to cancer. As CNET puts it, "you booze, you lose."

Drinking 50 grams of alcohol per day—about 2.6 beers or roughly three 6-ounce glasses of wine—results in a four to seven times greater risk of cancer in the oropharynx, larynx, and esophagus, and a 1.5 times greater risk of the others, compared to consuming no alcohol at all, reports Live Science. Alcohol may also cause skin, prostate, and pancreatic cancer, says Connor, adding the purported benefits of alcohol are "seen increasingly as ... irrelevant in comparison to the increase in risk of a range of cancers." Scientists aren't sure how alcohol causes cancer, but acetaldehyde—the compound formed when alcohol breaks down—damages the DNA of cells in the mouth, throat, esophagus, and liver. The good news: Those who stopped drinking reduced their risk of cancer in the larynx, throat, and liver, with the risk continuing to fall the longer they steered clear of booze. (Good thing we're drinking less.)

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