Sunday, August 23, 2015

Alcohol: A carcinogen hiding in plain sight

Alcohol is a carcinogen.  Even moderate alcohol use may substantially increase the risk of getting and dying from cancer.  Alcohol use accounts for about 3.5 percent of all U.S. cancer deaths annually, according to a study I summarized almost three years ago. Most deaths seemed to occur among people who consumed more than three alcoholic drinks a day, but those who consumed 1.5 beverages daily may account for up to one-third of those deaths, the researchers found.  (Video at YouTube and the online transcript)

Researchers examined seven types of cancers known to be linked to alcohol use: cancers of the mouth and pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum and female breast. Breast cancer accounted for the most common alcohol-related cancer deaths among women, contributing to 15 percent of all breast-cancer deaths. Alcohol remains the only dietary factor leading to an increased breast cancer risk.  Among men, cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and esophagus accounted for the most alcohol-linked cancer deaths.

"The relationship between alcohol and cancer is strong, but is not widely appreciated by the public and remains underemphasized even by physicians," according to a Boston University alcohol researcher (see related 2013 article).  Alcohol is a big preventable cancer risk factor that has been hiding in plain sight.  Not just for those with the disease of alcoholism:  Alcoholics and “social” drinkers share the same cancer risk.  When it comes to cancer, there is no safe level of alcohol use.

News reports in August 2015 claimed the cancer link is new… however, it's been in all three books on , predating the "breaking" news by five years – the first definitive links between alcohol and cancer go back to 1987 – and the connection between alcohol use and breast cancer has been examined since the 1920's. The toxin is listed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as a human carcinogen… and has been since 2000.  Yet, according to two studies, (one featured in an article 19 months ago) only 25 to 35 percent of the public knows this fact.

Among the alcohol/cancer links cited in these books from various evidence-based studies were:
• “significantly” higher risks for cancers of the pharynx, oral cavity and larynx. In fact, a previous episode demonstrated alcohol is the second-leading cause of mouth cancers.
• alcohol users are 1.6 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, the most fatal of cancers.
• an estimated 75 percent of esophageal cancers in the U.S. are attributable to alcohol consumption.
• breast cancer risks increase 10 percent for every 10 grams of alcohol consumed daily. That’s about one drink, as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) November 2, 2011. Women who consumed even “modest” amounts of alcohol (equivalent to 3-6 glasses of wine per week) were linked with a 15 percent increase of developing the disease. Researchers also found that the increased risk of breast cancer for those who drank at least two drinks daily was 51 percent higher compared to women who never drank alcohol.
• Men who consumed an average of more than four drinks per day were 65 percent more likely to develop stomach cancer than men who were very light drinkers or abstainers.

Stevens is Director of Marketing for The Manor.  Visit for a replay of CBS Sports' Power Up Your Health featuring Scott Stevens.  Host Ed Forteau led a discussion on risky myths of about "healthy" drinking.  Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore."  Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud also can be found on, plus the NEW book, Adding Fire to the Fuel, is now available. Download the FREE Alcohology app in the Google PlayStore today.