Is Alcohol A Carcinogen?

Is Alcohol A Carcinogen
It is the alcohol that causes harm, not the beverage – Alcohol is a toxic, psychoactive, and dependence-producing substance and has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer decades ago – this is the highest risk group, which also includes asbestos, radiation and tobacco.

  • Alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer, including the most common cancer types, such as bowel cancer and female breast cancer.
  • Ethanol (alcohol) causes cancer through biological mechanisms as the compound breaks down in the body, which means that any beverage containing alcohol, regardless of its price and quality, poses a risk of developing cancer.

The risk of developing cancer increases substantially the more alcohol is consumed. However, latest available data indicate that half of all alcohol-attributable cancers in the WHO European Region are caused by “light” and “moderate” alcohol consumption – less than 1.5 litres of wine or less than 3.5 litres of beer or less than 450 millilitres of spirits per week.

Is alcohol listed as a carcinogen?

Alcohol and Cancer Risk Fact Sheet Alcohol is the common term for ethanol or ethyl alcohol, a chemical substance found in alcoholic beverages such as beer, hard cider, malt liquor, wines, and distilled spirits (liquor). Alcohol is produced by the fermentation of sugars and starches by yeast.

Alcohol is also found in some medicines, mouthwashes, and household products (including vanilla extract and other flavorings). This fact sheet focuses on cancer risks associated with the consumption of alcoholic beverages. According to the, a standard alcoholic drink in the United States contains 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol.

Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 8–10 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces, or a “shot,” of 80-proof distilled spirits (liquor)

These amounts are used by public health experts in developing health guidelines about alcohol consumption and to provide a way for people to compare the amounts of alcohol they consume. However, they may not reflect the typical serving sizes people may encounter in daily life.

According to the federal government’s, individuals who do not drink alcohol should not start drinking for any reason. The Dietary Guidelines also recommends that people who drink alcohol do so in moderation by limiting consumption to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women.

Heavy alcohol drinking is defined as having 4 or more drinks on any day or 8 or more drinks per week for women and 5 or more drinks on any day or 15 or more drinks per week for men. Is Alcohol A Carcinogen There is a strong scientific consensus that alcohol drinking can cause several types of cancer (, ). In its, the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services lists consumption of alcoholic beverages as a known human,

The evidence indicates that the more alcohol a person drinks—particularly the more alcohol a person drinks regularly over time—the higher his or her risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer. Even those who have no more than one drink per day and binge drinkers (those who consume 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men in one sitting) have a modestly increased risk of some cancers (–).

Based on data from 2009, an estimated 3.5% of cancer deaths in the United States (about 19,500 deaths) were alcohol related (). Clear patterns have emerged between alcohol consumption and the development of the following types of cancer:

: Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption is associated with higher risks of certain head and neck cancers. Moderate drinkers have 1.8-fold higher risks of (excluding the lips) and (throat) cancers and 1.4-fold higher risks of (voice box) cancers than non-drinkers, and heavy drinkers have 5-fold higher risks of oral cavity and pharynx cancers and 2.6-fold higher risks of larynx cancers (, ). Moreover, the risks of these cancers are substantially higher among persons who consume this amount of alcohol and also use tobacco ().

: Alcohol consumption at any level is associated with an increased risk of a type of esophageal cancer called esophageal, The risks, compared with no alcohol consumption, range from 1.3-fold higher for light drinking to nearly 5-fold higher for heavy drinking (, ). In addition, people who inherit a deficiency in an that metabolizes alcohol have been found to have substantially increased risks of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma if they consume alcohol ().

  • : Epidemiologic studies have consistently found an increased risk of breast cancer with increasing alcohol intake. Pooled data from 118 individual studies indicates that light drinkers have a slightly increased (1.04-fold higher) risk of breast cancer, compared with nondrinkers. The risk increase is greater in moderate drinkers (1.23-fold higher) and heavy drinkers (1.6-fold higher) (, ). An analysis of data for 88,000 women participating in two US concluded that for women who have never smoked, light to moderate drinking was associated with a 1.13-fold increased risk of alcohol-related cancers (mostly breast cancer) ().
  • : Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption is associated with 1.2- to 1.5-fold increased risks of cancers of the colon and rectum compared with no alcohol consumption (,, ).

Numerous studies have examined whether there is an association between alcohol consumption and the risk of other cancers. For cancers of the ovary, prostate, stomach, uterus, and bladder, either no association with alcohol use has been found or the evidence for an association is inconsistent.

However, evidence is accumulating that alcohol consumption is associated with increased risks of melanoma and of prostate and pancreatic cancers (, ). Alcohol consumption has also been associated with decreased risks of (–) and (, ) in multiple studies. However, any potential benefits of alcohol consumption for reducing the risks of some cancers are likely outweighed by the harms of alcohol consumption.

In fact, a recent study that included data from more than 1,000 alcohol studies and data sources, as well as death and disability records from 195 countries and territories from 1990 to 2016, concluded that the optimal number of drinks to consume per day to minimize the overall risk to health is zero ().

  • That study did not include data on kidney cancer or non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Alcohol consumption may also be associated with an increased risk of,
  • For example, a of data from 19 studies showed that among patients with cancer of the upper (UADT)—which includes the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus—for every 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day before the first UADT cancer diagnosis there was a 1.09-fold higher risk of a second primary UADT cancer ().

It is less clear whether alcohol consumption increases the risk of second primary cancers at other sites, such as the breast (–). Researchers have hypothesized multiple ways that alcohol may increase the risk of cancer, including

  • metabolizing (breaking down) ethanol in alcoholic drinks to acetaldehyde, which is a toxic chemical and a probable human ; acetaldehyde can damage both (the genetic material that makes up ) and
  • generating (chemically reactive molecules that contain oxygen), which can damage DNA, proteins, and lipids (fats) in the body through a process called
  • impairing the body’s ability to break down and absorb a variety of nutrients that may be associated with cancer risk, including ; nutrients in the, such as ; ; ; ; and
  • increasing blood levels of, a sex hormone linked to the risk of breast cancer

Alcoholic beverages may also contain a variety of carcinogenic contaminants that are introduced during fermentation and production, such as, fibers,, and, The mechanisms by which alcohol consumption may decrease the risks of some cancers are not understood and may be indirect.

  • Shows that people who use both alcohol and tobacco have much greater risks of developing cancers of the, (throat),, and than people who use either alcohol or tobacco alone.
  • In fact, for oral and pharyngeal cancers, the risks associated with using both alcohol and tobacco are multiplicative; that is, they are greater than would be expected from adding the individual risks associated with alcohol and tobacco together (, ).

A person’s risk of alcohol-related cancers is influenced by their, specifically the genes that encode involved in metabolizing (breaking down) alcohol (). For example, one way the body metabolizes alcohol is through the activity of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, or ADH, which converts ethanol into the carcinogenic acetaldehyde, mainly in the liver.

Recent evidence suggests that acetaldehyde production also occurs in the oral cavity and may be influenced by factors such as the oral (, ). Many individuals of East Asian descent carry a version of the gene for ADH that codes for a “superactive” form of the enzyme. This superactive ADH enzyme speeds the conversion of alcohol (ethanol) to toxic acetaldehyde.

Among people of Japanese descent, those who have this form of ADH have a higher risk of pancreatic cancer than those with the more common form of ADH (). Another enzyme, called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2), metabolizes toxic acetaldehyde to nontoxic substances.

  • Some people, particularly those of East Asian descent, carry a variant of the gene for ALDH2 that encodes a defective form of the enzyme.
  • In people who produce the defective enzyme, acetaldehyde builds up when they drink alcohol.
  • The accumulation of acetaldehyde has such unpleasant effects (including facial flushing and heart palpitations) that most people who have inherited the ALDH2 variant are unable to consume large amounts of alcohol and therefore have a low risk of developing alcohol-related cancers.

However, some individuals with the defective form of ALDH2 can become tolerant to the unpleasant effects of acetaldehyde and consume large amounts of alcohol. Epidemiologic studies have shown that such individuals have a higher risk of alcohol-related esophageal cancer, as well as of head and neck cancers, than individuals with the fully active enzyme who drink comparable amounts of alcohol ().

  • These increased risks are seen only among people who carry the ALDH2 variant and drink alcohol—they are not observed in people who carry the variant but do not drink alcohol.
  • The plant secondary compound, found in grapes used to make red wine and some other plants, has been investigated for many possible health effects, including cancer prevention.

However, researchers have found no association between moderate consumption of red wine and the risk of developing prostate cancer () or colorectal cancer (). Most of the studies that have examined whether cancer risk declines after a person stops drinking alcohol have focused on and on,

  • In general, these studies have found that stopping alcohol consumption is not associated with immediate reductions in cancer risk.
  • The cancer risks eventually decline, although it may take years for the risks of cancer to return to those of never drinkers.
  • For example, ex-drinkers still had higher risks of and cancers than never drinkers even 16 years after they stopped drinking alcohol, although it was lower than before they stopped drinking ().

One study estimated that it would take more than 35 years for the higher risks of and pharyngeal cancers associated with alcohol consumption to decrease to the level of never drinkers (), As with most questions related to a specific individual’s cancer treatment, it is best for patients to check with their health care team about whether it is safe to drink alcohol during or immediately following treatment.

  1. IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans., IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks in Humans 2010; 96:3–1383.
  2. IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks in Humans 2012; 100(Pt E):373–472.
  3. Bagnardi V, Rota M, Botteri E, et al. Light alcohol drinking and cancer: a meta-analysis. Annals of Oncology 2013; 24(2):301–308.
  4. Bagnardi V, Rota M, Botteri E, et al. Alcohol consumption and site-specific cancer risk: A comprehensive dose-response meta-analysis. British Journal of Cancer 2015; 112(3):580–593.
  5. Cao Y, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci EL. Light to moderate intake of alcohol, drinking patterns, and risk of cancer: Results from two prospective US cohort studies. BMJ 2015; 351:h4238.
  6. Chen WY, Rosner B, Hankinson SE, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Moderate alcohol consumption during adult life, drinking patterns, and breast cancer risk. JAMA 2011; 306(17):1884–1890.
  7. White AJ, DeRoo LA, Weinberg CR, Sandler DP. Lifetime alcohol intake, binge drinking behaviors, and breast cancer risk. American Journal of Epidemiology 2017; 186(5):541–549.
  8. Nelson DE, Jarman DW, Rehm J, et al. Alcohol-attributable cancer deaths and years of potential life lost in the United States. American Journal of Public Health 2013; 103(4):641–648.
  9. LoConte NK, Brewster AM, Kaur JS, Merrill JK, Alberg AJ. Alcohol and cancer: A statement of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2018; 36(1):83–93.
  10. Hashibe M, Brennan P, Chuang SC, et al. Interaction between tobacco and alcohol use and the risk of head and neck cancer: Pooled analysis in the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology Consortium. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2009; 18(2):541–550.
  11. Wu C, Wang Z, Song X, et al. Joint analysis of three genome-wide association studies of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in Chinese populations. Nature Genetics 2014; 46(9):1001–1006.
  12. Grewal P, Viswanathen VA. Liver cancer and alcohol. Clinics in Liver Disease 2012; 16(4):839–850.
  13. Petrick JL, Campbell PT, Koshiol J, et al. Tobacco, alcohol use and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma: The Liver Cancer Pooling Project. British Journal of Cancer 2018; 118(7):1005–1012.
  14. Fedirko V, Tramacere I, Bagnardi V, et al. Alcohol drinking and colorectal cancer risk: An overall and dose-response meta-analysis of published studies. Annals of Oncology 2011; 22(9):1958–1972.
  15. Zhao J, Stockwell T, Roemer A, Chikritzhs T. Is alcohol consumption a risk factor for prostate cancer? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Cancer 2016; 16(1):845.
  16. Mahabir S, Leitzmann MF, Virtanen MJ, et al. Prospective study of alcohol drinking and renal cell cancer risk in a cohort of Finnish male smokers. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2005; 14(1):170–175.
  17. Rashidkhani B, Akesson A, Lindblad P, Wolk A. Alcohol consumption and risk of renal cell carcinoma: A prospective study of Swedish women. International Journal of Cancer 2005; 117(5):848–853.
  18. Lee JE, Hunter DJ, Spiegelman D, et al. Alcohol intake and renal cell cancer in a pooled analysis of 12 prospective studies. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2007; 99(10):801–810.
  19. Tramacere I, Pelucchi C, Bonifazi M, et al. Alcohol drinking and non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk: A systematic review and a meta-analysis. Annals of Oncology 2012; 23(11):2791–2798.
  20. Psaltopoulou T, Sergentanis TN, Ntanasis-Stathopoulos I, et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of hematological malignancies: A meta-analysis of prospective studies. International Journal of Cancer 2018; 143(3):486–495.
  21. GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators. Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet 2018; 392(10152):1015–1035.
  22. Druesne-Pecollo N, Keita Y, Touvier M, et al. Alcohol drinking and second primary cancer risk in patients with upper aerodigestive tract cancers: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2014; 23(2):324–331.
  23. Simapivapan P, Boltong A, Hodge A. To what extent is alcohol consumption associated with breast cancer recurrence and second primary breast cancer?: A systematic review. Cancer Treatment Reviews 2016; 50:155–167.
  24. Park SM, Li T, Wu S, et al. Risk of second primary cancer associated with pre-diagnostic smoking, alcohol, and obesity in women with keratinocyte carcinoma. Cancer Epidemiology 2017; 47:106–113.
  25. Knight JA, Fan J, Malone KE, et al. Alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking in combination: A predictor of contralateral breast cancer risk in the WECARE study. International Journal of Cancer 2017; 141(5):916–924.
  26. Turati F, Garavello W, Tramacere I, et al. A meta-analysis of alcohol drinking and oral and pharyngeal cancers: Results from subgroup analyses. Alcohol and Alcoholism 2013; 48(1):107–118.
  27. Druesne-Pecollo N, Tehard B, Mallet Y, et al. Alcohol and genetic polymorphisms: Effect on risk of alcohol-related cancer. Lancet Oncology 2009; 10(2):173–180.
  28. Stornetta A, Guidolin V, Balbo S. Alcohol-derived acetaldehyde exposure in the oral cavity. Cancers 2018; 10(1):20.
  29. Fan X, Peters BA, Jacobs EJ, et al. Drinking alcohol is associated with variation in the human oral microbiome in a large study of American adults. Microbiome 2018; 6(1):59.
  30. Kanda J, Matsuo K, Suzuki T, et al. Impact of alcohol consumption with polymorphisms in alcohol-metabolizing enzymes on pancreatic cancer risk in Japanese. Cancer Science 2009; 100(2):296–302.
  31. Yokoyama A, Omori T., Alcohol 2005; 35(3):175–185.
  32. Vartolomei MD, Kimura S, Ferro M, et al. The impact of moderate wine consumption on the risk of developing prostate cancer. Clinical Epidemiology 2018; 10:431–444.
  33. Chao C, Haque R, Caan BJ, et al. Red wine consumption not associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Nutrition and Cancer 2010; 62(6):849–855.
  34. Rehm J, Patra J, Popova S. Alcohol drinking cessation and its effect on esophageal and head and neck cancers: A pooled analysis. International Journal of Cancer 2007; 121(5):1132–1137.
  35. Ahmad Kiadaliri A, Jarl J, Gavriilidis G, Gerdtham UG. Alcohol drinking cessation and the risk of laryngeal and pharyngeal cancers: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One 2013; 8(3):e58158.
See also:  Why Not To Drink Alcohol?

If you would like to reproduce some or all of this content, see for guidance about copyright and permissions. In the case of permitted digital reproduction, please credit the National Cancer Institute as the source and link to the original NCI product using the original product’s title; e.g., “Alcohol and Cancer Risk was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.” : Alcohol and Cancer Risk Fact Sheet

Why is alcohol called a carcinogen?

The American Cancer Society recently updated its guidelines for preventing cancer. Among the recommendations: Don’t drink alcohol. While no alcohol is best for cancer prevention, women who choose to drink anyway should have no more than one drink a day, and men no more than two drinks a day.

We spoke with Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center, about the new alcohol guidelines and what they mean. What is your reaction to these updated alcohol guidelines? These updated guidelines bring the American Cancer Society’s recommendations more in line with what we know about alcohol and cancer risk.

They are also consistent with what’s recommended by other organizations, including MD Anderson and the American Institute for Cancer Research, We know that alcohol increases the risk for several cancers, including oral cancer, pharynx and larynx cancers, colorectal and esophageal cancers, as well as liver and breast cancers,

The ethanol in alcoholic drinks breaks down to acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen. This compound damages DNA and stops our cells from repairing the damage. This can allow cancerous cells to grow. Alcohol can affect levels of hormones like estrogen. These hormones act as messengers that tell our cells to grow and divide. The more cells divide, the more chances there are for something to go wrong and for cancer to develop. Alcohol makes the body less able to break down and absorb several important nutrients such as vitamins A, C, D, E, and folate. These nutrients help protect the body against cancer. Alcohol provides empty calories. Consuming extra calories can lead to weight gain, which can increase a person’s cancer risk.

If alcohol is a carcinogen, why do you give serving recommendations? We recognize that most Americans are not going to abstain from drinking alcohol completely. So, if they are going to drink, at least we can offer some guidance on what moderate drinking looks like.

The important thing to remember is that every time you drink, you increase your cancer risk. As with cigarettes and processed meat, there is no safe amount of alcohol. What should patients in active cancer treatment know about alcohol and cancer? Alcohol can worsen the side effects of chemotherapy and drugs used during cancer treatment.

These side effects include nausea, dehydration and mouth sores, And, drinking alcohol increases the risk of additional cancer diagnoses. Cancer patients should talk to their doctor about the use of alcohol. How does drinking alcohol affect a person’s chances of cancer recurrence? Studies show that alcohol is a risk factor for certain cancers.

  1. However, the link between alcohol and cancer recurrence is not known, especially for those who have completed cancer treatment.
  2. However, it’s best to avoid drinking after a cancer diagnosis, since it increases cancer risk.
  3. If someone quits drinking, how does past consumption of alcohol impact their cancer risk? Research has shown that when you stop drinking, the risk for alcohol-related cancers declines over time.

It may take many years to fully eliminate that risk; however, quitting is a very important step to improving your health and decreasing your cancer risk. What is the best thing to drink if I’m going to have alcohol? When it comes to managing your cancer risk, there is no alcoholic drink that is better than the other.

  1. All of them — including beer, wine and liquor — have ethanol, which is linked to increased cancer risk.
  2. To limit alcohol’s impact on your waistline, choose something that is lower in calories.
  3. For example, stay away from cocktails that have sugary mixers.
  4. If you drink red wine in the hopes that you are protecting your heart health, I would look for other ways to do that.

Some studies suggest that there are compounds in red wine that offer cardiovascular benefits. But there are many ways to keep your heart healthy. The potential benefits of drinking wine do not outweigh the cancer risk. Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.

Is wine a Class 1 carcinogen?

It is the alcohol that causes harm, not the beverage – Alcohol is a toxic, psychoactive, and dependence-producing substance and has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer decades ago – this is the highest risk group, which also includes asbestos, radiation and tobacco.

Alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer, including the most common cancer types, such as bowel cancer and female breast cancer. Ethanol (alcohol) causes cancer through biological mechanisms as the compound breaks down in the body, which means that any beverage containing alcohol, regardless of its price and quality, poses a risk of developing cancer.

The risk of developing cancer increases substantially the more alcohol is consumed. However, latest available data indicate that half of all alcohol-attributable cancers in the WHO European Region are caused by “light” and “moderate” alcohol consumption – less than 1.5 litres of wine or less than 3.5 litres of beer or less than 450 millilitres of spirits per week.

Is alcohol really that bad for you?

Long-Term Health Risks – Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including:

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.6,16
  • of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum.6,17
  • Weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick.6,16
  • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.6,18
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.6,19
  • Social problems, including family problems, job-related problems, and unemployment.6,20,21
  • Alcohol use disorders, or alcohol dependence.5

By not drinking too much, you can reduce the risk of these short- and long-term health risks.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention., Accessed April 19, 2022.
  2. Esser MB, Leung G, Sherk A, Bohm MB, Liu Y, Lu H, Naimi TS., JAMA Netw Open 2022;5:e2239485.
  3. Sacks JJ, Gonzales KR, Bouchery EE, Tomedi LE, Brewer RD., Am J Prev Med 2015; 49(5):e73–e79.
  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.9th Edition, Washington, DC; 2020.
  5. Esser MB, Hedden SL, Kanny D, Brewer RD, Gfroerer JC, Naimi TS., Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:140329.
  6. World Health Organization., Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2018.
  7. Alpert HR, Slater ME, Yoon YH, Chen CM, Winstanley N, Esser MB., Am J Prev Med 2022;63:286–300.
  8. Greenfield LA., Report prepared for the Assistant Attorney General’s National Symposium on Alcohol Abuse and Crime. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 1998.
  9. Mohler-Kuo M, Dowdall GW, Koss M, Wechsler H., Journal of Studies on Alcohol 2004;65(1):37–45.
  10. Abbey A., J Stud Alcohol Suppl 2002;14:118–128.
  11. Kanny D, Brewer RD, Mesnick JB, Paulozzi LJ, Naimi TS, Lu H., MMWR 2015;63:1238-1242.
  12. Naimi TS, Lipscomb LE, Brewer RD, Colley BG., Pediatrics 2003;11(5):1136–1141.
  13. Wechsler H, Davenport A, Dowdall G, Moeykens B, Castillo S., JAMA 1994;272(21):1672–1677.
  14. Kesmodel U, Wisborg K, Olsen SF, Henriksen TB, Sechler NJ., Alcohol & Alcoholism 2002;37(1):87–92.
  15. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Substance Abuse and Committee on Children with Disabilities.2000., Pediatrics 2000;106:358–361.
  16. Rehm J, Baliunas D, Borges GL, Graham K, Irving H, Kehoe T, et al., Addiction.2010;105(5):817-43.
  17. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Personal Habits and Indoor Combustions: A Review of Human Carcinogens, Volume 100E 2012. Available from:,
  18. Miller JW, Naimi TS, Brewer RD, Jones SE., Pediatrics.2007;119(1):76-85.
  19. Castaneda R, Sussman N, Westreich L, Levy R, O’Malley M., J Clin Psychiatry 1996;57(5):207–212.
  20. Booth BM, Feng W., J Behavioral Health Services and Research 2002;29(2):157–166.
  21. Leonard KE, Rothbard JC., J Stud Alcohol Suppl 1999;13:139–146.
See also:  Does Alcohol Evaporate When Cooked?
  • : Alcohol Use and Your Health

    Is Whiskey a carcinogen?

    External links –

    • International: International Agency for Research on Cancer home page
    • International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Volume 44 Alcohol Drinking: Summary of Data Reported and Evaluation
    • IARC Alcoholic beverages (Group 1) Ethanol in alcoholic beverages (Group 1) VOL.: 96 5. Summary of Data Reported
    • Australia: Cancer Control Bulletin Alcohol and cancer risk
    • Australia: POSITION STATEMENT: Alcohol and Cancer Prevention
    • Australia: Cancer Institute NSW: Alcohol as a cause of Cancer (PDF format)
    • Canada: Public Health Agency of Canada / Agence de santé publique du Canada Review of Lifestyle and Environmental Risk Factors for Breast Cancer (Contents and Introduction) PDF (full report in PDF format)
    • UK: Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products Consumption of alcoholic beverages and risk of breast cancer
    • UK: Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products Evidence for association between consumption of alcoholic beverages and breast cancer
    • UK: Cancer risk of drinking
    • US: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Alcohol Alert No.21-1993 Alcohol and cancer
    • US: National Cancer Institute
    • US: National Toxicology Program Report on Carcinogens, Eleventh Edition Alcoholic Beverage Consumption (PDF)
    • US: Ohio Department of Health Alcohol and cancer (PDF format)

    Other sites

    • Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition Alcohol Work Group Report on the Links between Alcohol and Cancer (PDF format)
    • Alcohol consumption and cancer risk
    • Even small amounts of alcohol increase a woman’s risk of cancer

    Science and medical sites

    • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Alcohol Use Increases the Risk of Hormonally Sensitive Breast Cancers in Postmenopausal Women
    • Alcohol, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer: Treat With Caution

    How much alcohol is carcinogenic?

    When the COVID-19 pandemic forced much of the world to shut down, and many days seemed bleak, it was easy to joke about the allure of a splash of rum in a morning coffee, or a cold beer at the end of the day. It was also easy to ignore a steady drumbeat of studies that showed that alcohol consumption is undeniably linked to cancer risk.

    Beyond the jokes, alcohol consumption rose during the pandemic. Numerous studies indicated that people were drinking more alcohol, with stress, increased access, and boredom cited as factors. A study published in December 2020 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed that 60 percent of respondents reported increased drinking during the pandemic.

    (Thirteen percent said they were drinking less.) The study also showed that 34 percent of respondents reported binge drinking and 7 percent reported extreme binge drinking. Since then, new research has underscored what many experts have long known: Alcohol increases the risk of many kinds of cancer.

    1. An International Agency for Research on Cancer study published in August 2021 in The Lancet Oncology found that globally, more than 741,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in 2020 were attributable to cancer.
    2. That figure accounts for 4.1 percent of global cancer cases, and encompassed esophageal, mouth, larynx, breast, colorectal, and liver cancer.

    Men accounted for about 75 percent of the alcohol-related cases. Graphic by the National Cancer Institute Many smaller studies over the past decade had also implicated alcohol in cancer risk. For example:

    A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that alcohol caused 7 percent of all new breast cancer cases in WHO’s European region.A large study of African American women found that women who drank more than 14 drinks in a week were 33 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than those who drank four or fewer drinks per week.The U.S. Surgeon General’s Office discussed cancer risk in its 2016 report, “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.”The World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research concluded that drinking 30 grams or more of alcohol per day increased the risk of colorectal cancer.

    To discuss the latest studies, and to identify “knowledge gaps” in research on alcohol and cancer, in December 2020, the National Cancer Institute convened a workshop and webinar titled Alcohol as a Target for Cancer Prevention and Control: Research Challenges,

    • Conducted virtually, the workshop summarized recent studies on the role of alcohol across the cancer continuum; assessed what researchers still need to learn; and provided a forum for conversations about how public policy and communication could be used to increase public awareness on this topic.
    • Susan Gapstur, PhD, MPH, a well-known cancer epidemiologist, was a co-chair of the webinar, and recently summarized the event in a paper in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

    Gapstur is quick to assert that links between alcohol and cancer have long been known. “We’ve known about this connection for more than 30 years; this is not our first conversation on the topic,” she said. Indeed, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer first classified alcoholic beverages as carcinogenic in 1987.

    • Since then, there is now sufficient scientific evidence showing that alcohol plays a causal role in cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract (including oral, pharynx, and larynx cancers, as well as squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus), breast, colorectum, and liver.
    • For other types of cancer, including prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and melanoma, for example, the findings aren’t as clear, Gapstur said.

    Panelists in the workshop and webinar believe that further research could help clarify the associations of alcohol with risk of cancer types for which the evidence is inconclusive. As discussed during the workshop and webinar, studies have shown that only 33 to 46 percent of Americans are aware of the connections between alcohol and cancer risk.

    • Gapstur said that the messages on alcohol and cancer may have gotten muffled amid public health campaigns against drunk driving, underage drinking, and binge drinking.
    • Panelists found ample opportunities for research focused on strengthening accurate messaging on alcohol and cancer, including messaging by clinicians and public health organizations.

    How does alcohol increase cancer risk? This fundamental question does not have one simple answer, Gapstur noted. For example, in the case of liver cancer, heavy alcohol consumption is known to cause cirrhosis, a chronic condition in which healthy cells in the liver are replaced with scar tissue, often causing inflammation and ultimately, leading to liver cancer.

    1. For other cancer types, carcinogenesis may occur when ethanol, the main component of alcohol, is metabolized into acetaldehyde, a known cancer-causing agent.
    2. Acetaldehyde interferes with DNA synthesis and repair and causes cytotoxicity and mutagenicity, Gapstur’s paper states.
    3. It also leads to the formation of DNA adducts—segments of DNA bound to cancer-causing chemicals.

    Further research into the mechanisms of alcohol’s effect on cancer risk could increase understanding of other factors that may interact with alcohol to increase cancer risk. How much is too much? There’s an accepted truth among researchers investigating the role of alcohol in cancer: Many people drink more than they say they do.

    Underreporting” is common. There’s also a high degree of variability in how people report serving sizes of alcohol. One person may have a standard serving of 5 ounces of wine, while another may fill a 16-ounce wineglass to the brim, and both may report that they had one glass. There are some guidelines.

    The U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, recommends that people who do not presently drink alcohol continue to abstain. Those who do choose to drink should limit consumption to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

    The NCI workshop/webinar summary pointed out that few surveys have tried to capture information on alcohol consumption over a lifetime. The age at which one begins drinking, levels of consumption, and episodes of binge drinking could potentially play a role in cancer risk, but that history is rarely available.

    Also, there is little research on what happens when someone stops drinking, Gapstur said. “The workshop and webinar examined many cross-cutting scientific evidence gaps. Taken together, if these gaps are filled, they could potentially change what we say about the effects of alcohol on cancer risk, how we communicate that evidence and affect drinking behaviors,” she said.

    It’s the holiday season With all this information fresh in our minds, how should we approach this holiday season? When global health organizations say that any amount of alcohol raises the risk of cancer, should we abstain completely? “I think we need to be smart about our consumption.” Gapstur said.

    “Having a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage occasionally is unlikely to be harmful. But we need to be aware and understand the risks of consumption, and when you’re balancing those risks, you should be mindful of the full body of evidence of the health effects of drinking.”

    Why do people drink alcohol?

    9. For Fun – People generally tend to drink alcohol in order to have fun. Being drunk makes them feel happy and “spirited,” and drinking alcohol with friends can be a fun experience. If people are nervous in social situations, drinking helps them relax and have more fun.

    Do wine drinkers live longer?

    People from food cultures where wine is a daily part of life have famously low rates of heart disease and long lives. But does drinking wine actually help you live longer? (Image credit: Peathegee Inc via Getty Images) A glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away — or does it? From the French to the Sardinians, cultures in which people tend to drink wine daily have famously low (opens in new tab) rates of heart disease and lead longer lives (opens in new tab), on average, than Americans do.

    But does drinking wine actually help you live longer? The belief that a daily glass of vino accounts for the health and longevity of those living in wine-centered food cultures goes back to a 1992 paper (opens in new tab) that called this phenomenon “the French paradox,” pointing to wine as an explanation.

    Today, however, our understanding of wine and its health effects is more nuanced. There is some evidence that drinking wine protects against certain health conditions, but the evidence that it leads to a longer life is thin, said Adrian Baranchuk, a professor of cardiology at Queen’s University School of Medicine in Ontario.

    Studies of alcohol are limited in their design,” he said. For starters, much of the research on red wine and mortality don’t focus on wine itself. Rather, the research investigates the health effects of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant in wine. These chemicals shield cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals, which are associated with heart disease and cancer risk, and have been proposed as one potential reason for wine’s purportedly positive health effects.

    Related: Is champagne stronger than non-bubbly alcoholic drinks? When an international team of researchers pooled the results of 22 studies and analyzed them as a whole, they found that people who consumed 800 milligrams of flavonoids —​​ one type of polyphenol found in wine, as well as most fruits and vegetables — per day had a 24% lower risk of death within the study period compared with those who consumed no flavonoids.

    Their 2017 results, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology (opens in new tab), found that this difference dropped by 6% for every 100-milligram decrease in flavonoid consumption. (For example, people who consumed only 700 milligrams had an 18% lower risk of death.) The problem is that 800 milligrams is a lot of flavonoids.

    “You’d have to drink gallons and gallons of wine to benefit,” said Bill Klein, associate director of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Behavioral Research Program. Klein studies behavioral risk factors for cancer and has published papers on the health effects of alcohol.

    1. In one study, published in 2001 in The Journal of Nutrition (opens in new tab), participants who consumed 750 milliliters of wine (about four 6-ounce glasses) ingested only about 24 milligrams of dietary flavonoids.
    2. Based on that result, to get 800 milligrams per day, you’d need to drink 133 glasses of wine.
    See also:  Is Alcohol Bad For Liver?

    Plus, there are other, potentially healthier sources of polyphenols: The Journal of Nutrition study found that participants ingested more polyphenols when eating onions, There is some evidence that drinking moderate amounts of wine is heart-healthy, Baranchuk said.

    Around two glasses, five days per week for men or one glass, five days per week for women — the guidelines (opens in new tab) recommended by the American Heart Association — seem to raise good cholesterol, reduce the risk of blood clots, help to prevent artery damage caused by bad cholesterol, and improve the function of the layer of cells that line the blood vessels compared with people who don’t drink at all, he said.

    Part of that benefit to cardiovascular health may be due to the effects of polyphenols, he wrote in a 2017 review on the subject published in the journal Circulation (opens in new tab), But these benefits are more likely attributable to ethanol, which is present in all alcoholic beverages, Baranchuk said.

    How much alcohol is carcinogenic?

    When the COVID-19 pandemic forced much of the world to shut down, and many days seemed bleak, it was easy to joke about the allure of a splash of rum in a morning coffee, or a cold beer at the end of the day. It was also easy to ignore a steady drumbeat of studies that showed that alcohol consumption is undeniably linked to cancer risk.

    Beyond the jokes, alcohol consumption rose during the pandemic. Numerous studies indicated that people were drinking more alcohol, with stress, increased access, and boredom cited as factors. A study published in December 2020 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed that 60 percent of respondents reported increased drinking during the pandemic.

    (Thirteen percent said they were drinking less.) The study also showed that 34 percent of respondents reported binge drinking and 7 percent reported extreme binge drinking. Since then, new research has underscored what many experts have long known: Alcohol increases the risk of many kinds of cancer.

    An International Agency for Research on Cancer study published in August 2021 in The Lancet Oncology found that globally, more than 741,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in 2020 were attributable to cancer. That figure accounts for 4.1 percent of global cancer cases, and encompassed esophageal, mouth, larynx, breast, colorectal, and liver cancer.

    Men accounted for about 75 percent of the alcohol-related cases. Graphic by the National Cancer Institute Many smaller studies over the past decade had also implicated alcohol in cancer risk. For example:

    A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that alcohol caused 7 percent of all new breast cancer cases in WHO’s European region.A large study of African American women found that women who drank more than 14 drinks in a week were 33 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than those who drank four or fewer drinks per week.The U.S. Surgeon General’s Office discussed cancer risk in its 2016 report, “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.”The World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research concluded that drinking 30 grams or more of alcohol per day increased the risk of colorectal cancer.

    To discuss the latest studies, and to identify “knowledge gaps” in research on alcohol and cancer, in December 2020, the National Cancer Institute convened a workshop and webinar titled Alcohol as a Target for Cancer Prevention and Control: Research Challenges,

    Conducted virtually, the workshop summarized recent studies on the role of alcohol across the cancer continuum; assessed what researchers still need to learn; and provided a forum for conversations about how public policy and communication could be used to increase public awareness on this topic. Susan Gapstur, PhD, MPH, a well-known cancer epidemiologist, was a co-chair of the webinar, and recently summarized the event in a paper in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

    Gapstur is quick to assert that links between alcohol and cancer have long been known. “We’ve known about this connection for more than 30 years; this is not our first conversation on the topic,” she said. Indeed, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer first classified alcoholic beverages as carcinogenic in 1987.

    • Since then, there is now sufficient scientific evidence showing that alcohol plays a causal role in cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract (including oral, pharynx, and larynx cancers, as well as squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus), breast, colorectum, and liver.
    • For other types of cancer, including prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and melanoma, for example, the findings aren’t as clear, Gapstur said.

    Panelists in the workshop and webinar believe that further research could help clarify the associations of alcohol with risk of cancer types for which the evidence is inconclusive. As discussed during the workshop and webinar, studies have shown that only 33 to 46 percent of Americans are aware of the connections between alcohol and cancer risk.

    Gapstur said that the messages on alcohol and cancer may have gotten muffled amid public health campaigns against drunk driving, underage drinking, and binge drinking. Panelists found ample opportunities for research focused on strengthening accurate messaging on alcohol and cancer, including messaging by clinicians and public health organizations.

    How does alcohol increase cancer risk? This fundamental question does not have one simple answer, Gapstur noted. For example, in the case of liver cancer, heavy alcohol consumption is known to cause cirrhosis, a chronic condition in which healthy cells in the liver are replaced with scar tissue, often causing inflammation and ultimately, leading to liver cancer.

    For other cancer types, carcinogenesis may occur when ethanol, the main component of alcohol, is metabolized into acetaldehyde, a known cancer-causing agent. Acetaldehyde interferes with DNA synthesis and repair and causes cytotoxicity and mutagenicity, Gapstur’s paper states. It also leads to the formation of DNA adducts—segments of DNA bound to cancer-causing chemicals.

    Further research into the mechanisms of alcohol’s effect on cancer risk could increase understanding of other factors that may interact with alcohol to increase cancer risk. How much is too much? There’s an accepted truth among researchers investigating the role of alcohol in cancer: Many people drink more than they say they do.

    Underreporting” is common. There’s also a high degree of variability in how people report serving sizes of alcohol. One person may have a standard serving of 5 ounces of wine, while another may fill a 16-ounce wineglass to the brim, and both may report that they had one glass. There are some guidelines.

    The U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, recommends that people who do not presently drink alcohol continue to abstain. Those who do choose to drink should limit consumption to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

    The NCI workshop/webinar summary pointed out that few surveys have tried to capture information on alcohol consumption over a lifetime. The age at which one begins drinking, levels of consumption, and episodes of binge drinking could potentially play a role in cancer risk, but that history is rarely available.

    Also, there is little research on what happens when someone stops drinking, Gapstur said. “The workshop and webinar examined many cross-cutting scientific evidence gaps. Taken together, if these gaps are filled, they could potentially change what we say about the effects of alcohol on cancer risk, how we communicate that evidence and affect drinking behaviors,” she said.

    It’s the holiday season With all this information fresh in our minds, how should we approach this holiday season? When global health organizations say that any amount of alcohol raises the risk of cancer, should we abstain completely? “I think we need to be smart about our consumption.” Gapstur said.

    “Having a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage occasionally is unlikely to be harmful. But we need to be aware and understand the risks of consumption, and when you’re balancing those risks, you should be mindful of the full body of evidence of the health effects of drinking.”

    When did alcohol become a carcinogen?

    Abstract – The consumption of alcoholic beverages has been classified as carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) since 1988. More recently, in 2010, ethanol as the major constituent of alcoholic beverages and its metabolite acetaldehyde were also classified as carcinogenic to humans.

    • Alcoholic beverages as multi-component mixtures may additionally contain further known or suspected human carcinogens as constituent or contaminant.
    • This review will discuss the occurrence and toxicology of eighteen carcinogenic compounds (acetaldehyde, acrylamide, aflatoxins, arsenic, benzene, cadmium, ethanol, ethyl carbamate, formaldehyde, furan, glyphosate, lead, 3-MCPD, 4-methylimidazole, N-nitrosodimethylamine, pulegone, ochratoxin A, safrole) occurring in alcoholic beverages as identified based on monograph reviews by the IARC.

    For most of the compounds of alcoholic beverages, quantitative risk assessment provided evidence for only a very low risk (such as margins of exposure above 10,000). The highest risk was found for ethanol, which may reach exposures in ranges known to increase the cancer risk even at moderate drinking (margin of exposure around 1).

    1. Other constituents that could pose a risk to the drinker were inorganic lead, arsenic, acetaldehyde, cadmium and ethyl carbamate, for most of which mitigation by good manufacturing practices is possible.
    2. Nevertheless, due to the major effect of ethanol, the cancer burden due to alcohol consumption can only be reduced by reducing alcohol consumption in general or by lowering the alcoholic strength of beverages.

    Keywords: Acetaldehyde; Alcoholic beverages; Cancer risk; Ethanol; Lead; Risk assessment.

    Is Whiskey a carcinogen?

    External links –

    • International: International Agency for Research on Cancer home page
    • International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Volume 44 Alcohol Drinking: Summary of Data Reported and Evaluation
    • IARC Alcoholic beverages (Group 1) Ethanol in alcoholic beverages (Group 1) VOL.: 96 5. Summary of Data Reported
    • Australia: Cancer Control Bulletin Alcohol and cancer risk
    • Australia: POSITION STATEMENT: Alcohol and Cancer Prevention
    • Australia: Cancer Institute NSW: Alcohol as a cause of Cancer (PDF format)
    • Canada: Public Health Agency of Canada / Agence de santé publique du Canada Review of Lifestyle and Environmental Risk Factors for Breast Cancer (Contents and Introduction) PDF (full report in PDF format)
    • UK: Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products Consumption of alcoholic beverages and risk of breast cancer
    • UK: Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products Evidence for association between consumption of alcoholic beverages and breast cancer
    • UK: Cancer risk of drinking
    • US: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Alcohol Alert No.21-1993 Alcohol and cancer
    • US: National Cancer Institute
    • US: National Toxicology Program Report on Carcinogens, Eleventh Edition Alcoholic Beverage Consumption (PDF)
    • US: Ohio Department of Health Alcohol and cancer (PDF format)

    Other sites

    • Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition Alcohol Work Group Report on the Links between Alcohol and Cancer (PDF format)
    • Alcohol consumption and cancer risk
    • Even small amounts of alcohol increase a woman’s risk of cancer

    Science and medical sites

    • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Alcohol Use Increases the Risk of Hormonally Sensitive Breast Cancers in Postmenopausal Women
    • Alcohol, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer: Treat With Caution

    Is alcohol a carcinogen and can cause liver?

    Alcohol – Heavy alcohol use increases your risk of liver cancer. Drinking alcohol long term can cause cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis in turn increases the risk of liver cancer. Alcohol might also directly damage the DNA inside liver cells. The risk of liver cancer is higher in heavy drinkers who have hepatitis B or C virus infections compared to those who drink moderate amounts of alcohol or don’t drink at all.7 out of 100 cases of liver cancer (7%) in the UK are caused by drinking alcohol.

  • Adblock
    detector