In 2020, alcohol consumption was linked to 741,000 cancer cases worldwide according to a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, (IAC). Specifically, it is thought to increase the risk of cancer of the head and neck, the oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and breast cancer in
The body breaks down alcohol to produce a compound called acetaldehyde, a toxin that may cause cancer although it is also found naturally in yoghurt and many fruits.
The body’s alcohol breakdown can also produce unstable molecules – free radicals – which can damageDNA, producing changes that can result in a cell turning cancerous.
Alcohol can also impair the body’s ability to absorb a variety of nutrients it needs for its cancer prevention. It can also increase blood levels of oestrogen, a sex hormone linked to breast cancer, and make the carcinogens found in tobacco smoke easier for the body to absorb. Indeed, even light drinking of just 10 grams or less per day adds to the risk of
Public awareness in UK of cancer risk from alcohol is overlooked, unknown or disregarded and a recent UK survey found that only one in 10 people were aware that alcohol could cause cancer.
In 2020 alcohol drinking has been causally associated with nearly 17,000 cases of cancer in UK, with the percentage of cancer types linked to alcohol: Breast 24%, Colon 23%, Rectum 13%, Oral cavity 12%, Oesophagus 9%, Liver 8%, Throat 7%, Larynx 4%.
However, all this aside, it is also very well known that residents of the so-called blue zones, such as Okinawa in Japan and the Greek Island of Ikaria, regularly live to over 100 years old and drink up to 3 glasses of wine, or
equivalent, per day. Apparently, the trick is drink moderately with good food – and, of course, good company. Happy Holidays!
Professor Ian Hampson
University of Manchester
National Cancer Institute – NCI and WHO Report on alcohol consumption, global health, and Cancer.
NHS, UK – Alcoholic drinks and calculating units.
Public Health England – Alcohol consumption and Covid.
Keywords: Alcohol, Cancer prevention, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum, breast cancer in women. tobacco, IAC, WHO, NHS, University of Manchester.