According to Cancer Research UK alcohol increases the risk of 7 types of cancer, including breast, mouth, and bowel cancers. Not everyone who drinks alcohol will get cancer, however, research has shown that certain types of cancer are more commonly found in people who drink more alcohol than others. Alcohol causes 4% of all cancers in the UK – approximately 12,800 cases per year.
Types of Alcohol
All types of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer, as well as other illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, cirrhosis of the liver, and pancreatitis. No type of alcohol is better or worse than another, the ethanol leads to the damage, regardless of whether it is wine, beer, or spirits.
Alcohol and Smoking
Drinking alcohol and smoking increases your chances of developing throat and mouth cancer more so than doing either on their own. A combination of smoking and drinking increases the risk of cancer because tobacco and alcohol work together to damage body cells. For example, alcohol makes it easier for the mouth and throat to absorb the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco.
Can low quantities of alcohol have health benefits?
A recent study by World Cancer Research Fund shows that 9 in 10 of us are not aware that red wine increases the risk of cancer. Red wine has often been claimed to be good for the heart, but these benefits are less than previously thought and are outweighed by the risk of cancer. The study states that not drinking alcohol is one of the most effective things a person can do to reduce their risk of cancer, along with not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.
How much alcohol is safe?
According to recent government guidelines, there is no safe limit for alcohol consumption. The risk of cancer is smaller for those who keep alcohol to a minimum and stay within the weekly guidelines for consumption. The UK guideline is to drink no more than 14 units per week, which is roughly equal to six pints of 4% beer or six 175ml glasses of 13% wine. It is best to spread these drinks evenly throughout the week.
Regularly drinking a pint of lager or a large glass of wine every day can increase your risk of mouth, upper throat, oesophageal, breast, and bowel cancer. Around, 3,200 cases of breast cancer in women each year in the UK are linked to alcohol.
What types of cancer does alcohol increase the risk of?
- Pharyngeal (upper throat)
- Oesophageal (food pipe)
- Laryngeal (voice box)