Alcohol types

Cancer: Alcohol consumption can cause several types of cancer

Cancer can be extremely difficult to stop once it has started in the body. Indeed, cancer cells proliferate and spread to neighboring areas. However, steps can be taken to completely mitigate the risk of cancer.

Anyone can get cancer, but you can increase the risk scale by making poor lifestyle decisions.

According to Cancer FactFinder — a new health website that applies scientific scrutiny to common claims about cancer risk — drinking alcohol can increase your risk by an order of magnitude.

The health website states: “There is strong agreement that alcohol consumption can cause several types of cancer, and it has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen (meaning it is carcinogenic in humans) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

He adds that there is a strong “dose-response association” between alcohol consumption and cancer.

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This means that the more alcohol a person drinks regularly over time, the greater their risk of developing alcohol-related cancer.

These include:

  • Head and neck: Moderate drinkers have a 1.8 times higher risk of cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx (throat) and a 1.4 times higher risk of cancers of the larynx (voice box) than non-drinkers . Heavy drinkers have a five times higher risk of cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx and a 2.6 times higher risk of cancers of the larynx (NCI).
  • Esophageal: Compared to those who do not drink alcohol, the risk ranges from 1.3 times higher for light drinkers to almost five times higher for heavy drinkers (NCI).
  • Liver: Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with an approximately twice as high risk of two types of liver cancer.
  • Breast: The increased risk of cancer is greater in moderate drinkers (1.23 times higher) than in heavy drinkers (1.6 times higher).
  • Colorectal: Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption is associated with a 1.2 to 1.5 times higher risk of colon and rectal cancer than no alcohol consumption.

The association is of particular concern in the UK, where rates of alcohol abuse are particularly high.

In England, among people aged 15 to 49, alcohol is the leading cause of poor health, disability and death, according to government statistics released last year.

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Alcohol abuse in the UK is a significant public health problem with major health, social and economic consequences, estimated at between £21 billion and £52 billion a year.

According to government statistics, around 21% of the adult population in England and 24% of adults in England and Scotland regularly drink at levels that increase their risk of poor health (increasing risk and higher risk drinkers).

Britain’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) advise that to keep alcohol-related risk low, adults should regularly drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

One unit of alcohol corresponds to 8 g or 10 ml of pure alcohol, i.e. approximately:

  • Half a pint of lager/beer/cider of lower than normal strength (3.6% ABV)
  • A single small scoop (25ml) of spirits (25ml, ABV 40%).

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Symptoms to spot and how to react

It is important to be aware of any new or concerning symptoms.

The NHS explains: “Although it is unlikely to be cancer, it is important to speak to a GP so they can investigate. Finding cancer early means it is easier treat.”

General signs include changes in bowel habits, bloating and coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath.

“If your GP suspects cancer they will refer you to a specialist – usually within two weeks,” the NHS adds.