A new study is suggesting that alcohol can be responsible for causing different types of cancer. Previously the emphasis had been on cancer of the liver, but now this new study says there are 7 types of cancer caused by alcohol.
Cancers caused by alcohol
It’s not only heavy drinkers who can be affected by these cancers as it can also occur for people who only drink alcohol in small amounts. Although the results don’t really conclude how or why alcohol causes mutations that are needed to allow cancer to develop, but they do indicate that there is certainly an association.
Even though there isn’t a complete understanding of the biological mechanisms, there is evidence that alcohol may cause oropharynx, oesophagus, larynx, colon, liver, breast and rectum cancer. There is also some evidence that the risks can be reversed for laryngeal, pharyngeal and liver cancers if alcohol consumption stops.
How the Study was Carried Out
In order to reach a conclusion, an analysis of many of the cancer studies which were alcohol based from over the last decade was carried out. The results of each of them were compared to see if there might be any links between them.
The main factor seemed to be that there is a link between the amount of alcohol consumed and cancer cell formation. This means that those people who drink more are more likely to develop certain cancers. Heavy drinkers have the highest risk, but there is also a considerable risk among those who are low to moderate drinkers.
The Risks of Cancer from Alcohol
The strongest of the links between drinking and cancer was mouth cancer. It’s believed that drinking 50 grams of alcohol every day can increase the risk of developing mouth cancer by up to 7 times compared to a non-drinker.
It may sound like 50 grams is a lot, but it isn’t when you realise that an average beer or glass of wine is around 14 grams. Health authorities in the UK recently said that there is no level of regular alcohol consumption that is safe.
Their recommendation for the number of safe units (where a unit is about half a pint of average strength lager or half a 175ml glass of average strength wine) was reduced for men from 21 to 14 a week. This brought it down to the previous level recommended for women. They also said that women had a 40% greater chance of developing breast cancer if they drank 5 units of alcohol a day.
Most experts agree that there is solid evidence of a link between alcohol and cancer, although the reasons aren’t completely understood. One school of thought is that it’s possible that alcohol might cause damage to DNA which leads to mutations being formed that allow the cancer cells to develop.
There isn’t any hard evidence to support this and more research needs to be carried out into it to discover the actual links. This latest report though, does point to what is already known about the link between cancer and alcohol, plus it also provides some evidence of the 7 types of cancer caused by alcohol even in low to moderate drinkers.