Even Light Drinking May Raise Cancer Risk, Doctors Warn

ASCO: Alcohol Linked to Several Types of Cancer

Report: Most unaware of link between alcohol, cancer

Drinking even one alcoholic drink per day is linked with a 5 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer, a 17 percent increase in the risk of oropharyngeal cancer (a cancer of the middle part of the throat) and a 30 percent increase in the risk of esophageal cancer, compared with not drinking, according to a 2013 study cited by the ASCO statement.

The greater risks are for the heavy drinkers (defined by NIAAA as those who binge drink on five or more days in a month, with binge drinking defined as consuming four drinks in a sitting for women, five for men).

Doctors said the way to lessen the risk is to drink less or don't start if you do not drink already.

In the USA, it is estimated that 3.5 per cent of all cancer deaths are linked to alcohol, and in 2012, 5.5 per cent of all new cancer diagnoses and 5.8 per cent of deaths worldwide were attributable to alcohol consumption.

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As of 2013, about 73 per cent of Americans reported consuming alcohol, and almost 13 per cent described their consumption habits as binge drinking, according to a survey published in JAMA Psychiatry in August.

As we head into the holiday season, you may want to keep the following findings in mind before allowing yourself to indulge in an extra festive drink or two.

A recent survey finds that 70% of Americans are unaware of how alcohol is linked to potential cancer.

Drinking - even small or moderate amounts - was especially closely associated with increased risks for esophogeal, mouth, liver, colorectal and breast cancers, and is responsible for more than five per cent of cancers and cancer deaths worldwide.

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"If you look at these figures, you see alcohol is a contributing factor; certainly it has a causal role", Dr. Hudis said. Also saying, "It's different than tobacco where we say, 'Never smoke".

The researchers add that the benefits of alcohol - especially the widely held belief that red wine improves cardiovascular health - has likely been overstated and doctors should not recommend alcohol consumption to prevent cardiovascular disease. "However, the link between increased alcohol consumption and cancer has been firmly established and gives the medical community guidance on how to help their patients reduce their risk of cancer". "Don't start.' This is a little more subtle". Overdoing it may lead to cancer.

To reverse the trend, ASCO suggests a number of measures to fight cancer deaths from alcohol, including by limiting sales through increased taxes and incorporating alcohol control strategies into cancer patients' care plans. "It is really the heavy drinkers over a long period of time that we need to worry about", she said.

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