The American Society of Clinical Oncology just released its first official study on alcohol and cancer. The ASCO says that research explains that drinking is connected to 7 types of cancer. And, even moderate drinking puts you at risk.
American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is hoping to promote public education about the risks between alcohol and cancer with its latest study. The ASCO — which represents some of the world’s top doctors — says there is research evidence that alcohol is connected to more than 5-6% of cancer diagnoses, including multiple types. The Journal of Clinical Oncology states that a World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) report showed evidence to associate that drinking alcohol was a cause of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, and colorectum [in men]. Also, alcohol was judged to be a probable cause of increased risk of liver cancer and colorectal cancer [in women].
Modest use of alcohol may increase cancer risk, however, the journal states that the highest risks are associated with heavy, long-term use of alcohol. The main takeaway from the study is, the more alcohol you consume, the more likely you are to develop at least seven types of cancer. In developing the statement, ASCO researchers reviewed past studies and discovered that 5.5 percent of all new cancers and 5.8 percent of the total cancer deaths worldwide may be attributed to alcohol. The study stated that alcohol plays a “causal” role in cancers of the throat and neck, voice box, liver and colon, as well as esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and, in women, breast cancer. The group is also encouraging a new public health initiative to put an end to “pink-washing” of alcoholic beverages, a tactic used by alcohol companies to advertise their products. Companies will include the breast cancer pink ribbon in ads or on their products to increase sales.
One way alcohol can lead to cancer is, when consumed, the body metabolizes it into acetaldehyde, which causes changes and mutations in DNA, Dr. Gapstur said. The formation of acetaldehyde begins when alcohol comes in contact with bacteria in the mouth, which may explain the connection between alcohol and cancers of the esophagus, throat, and voice box, Gapstur added.
To reduce the risks, the statement includes several recommendations. “The message is not, ‘Don’t drink.’ It’s, ‘If you want to reduce your cancer risk, drink less. And if you don’t drink, don’t start,’” said Dr. Noelle LoConte, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the lead author of the ASCO statement. “It’s different than tobacco where we say, ‘Never smoke. Don’t start.’ This is a little more subtle.”
“Therefore, limiting alcohol intake is a means to prevent cancer,” she added. “The good news is that, just like people wear sunscreen to limit their risk of, limiting alcohol intake is one more thing people can do to reduce their overall risk of developing cancer.”
If you were wondering what exactly moderate and heavy drinking is, the Center for Disease Control provides information on public health. Moderate drinking is considered 1 drink per day for women, and 2 drinks per day for men. Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week for men; for women, it is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks per week.
For the full study on alcohol and cancer, as well as more information on the ASCO, head over to their official website.
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