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New research: A drink a day increases cancer risk

09 November 2017

The American Society of Clinical Oncologists have released a statement urging drink lovers to watch their alcohol consumption.

The 11-page ASCO statement on alcohol and cancer says that "associations between alcohol drinking and cancer risk have been observed consistently regardless of the specific type of alcoholic beverages", meaning the link between alcohol and certain cancers was not specific to consumption of just beer, wine, or other types of liquor. The statement cited an increase in the risk of cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx and the liver, with a slightly lower increased risk for colorectal and pancreatic cancer.

"Therefore, limiting alcohol intake is a means to prevent cancer", she added.

Drinking in general, as well as problem drinking and heavy drinking, are increasing in the USA and affect every segment of society, including older adults, women, ethnic and racial minorities, as well as the poor.

Experts also found that drinking alcohol can have an adverse effect on treatment and outcomes for patients with cancer.

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"ASCO joins a growing number of cancer care and public health organizations in recognizing that even moderate alcohol use can cause cancer", said statement author Dr. Noelle LoConte. One such is a ban on advertising alcohol in the buses and subways of New York City that begins as of January 2018. The evidence linked alcohol consumption with breast, colon, esophagus, and head and neck cancers.

It's estimated that, worldwide, about 5 percent of new cancers and 6 percent of cancer deaths each year are directly attributable to alcohol consumption, the ASCO statement said. The ASCO defines heavy drinking as "eight or more drinks per week or three or more drinks per day for women, and as many as fifteen or more drinks per week or four or more drinks per day for men".

"The story of alcohol has been quite consistent and has been peeled away like an onion over time, and we're continuing to learn more about the mechanisms involved", Dr. Gapstur said.

Alcohol does not affect each part of the body in the same carcinogenic way, as Dr LoConte explained. Since there's evidence linking breast cancer to drinking, companies shouldn't be "exploiting the color pink" or using pink ribbons to show their support of breast cancer research, the authors said. "It is really the heavy drinkers over a long period of time that we need to worry about", she said.

New research: A drink a day increases cancer risk