Can Alcohol Use Cause Cancer?
Each year in the United States, alcohol use causes:
6% of new cancers.
4% of cancer-related deaths.
Alcohol use is associated with six cancers:
- Colon and rectum.
- Larynx (voice box).
- Liver and intrahepatic bile duct.
- Oral Cavity and pharynx (throat).
Prevalence of Excessive Drinking
Excessive drinking is heavy drinking and/or binge drinking.*
In Ohio, excessive drinking is higher for adults who are:
- Men (21.9%) compared with women (12.4%).
- Ages 18-24 years.
- Earning $75,000 or more per year.
- Living in counties that include or surround Ohio’s largest cities.
*Heavy drinking: having more than two drinks per day (men) or more than one drink per day (women).
*Binge drinking: having five or more drinks per occasion (men) or four or more drinks per occasion (women) at least once in the past 30 days.
How Alcohol Affects Cancer Risk
Alcohol may increase the risk of cancer by:
- Damaging healthy cells in the body. If cells do not repair themselves correctly, it could lead to cancer.
- Increasing blood levels of estrogen, a hormone linked to the risk of breast cancer.
- Being converted to a toxic chemical that can damage DNA and proteins.
Prevention is Key
Limiting the amount of alcohol a person drinks may reduce risk of some cancers. It is recommended that women have no more than 1 drink per day and men have no more than 2 drinks per day. Alcohol drinking and tobacco smoking together raises the risk of cancers of the esophagus, larynx, and oral cavity and pharynx many times more than either alone.