Report: Ditching ALCOHOL can reduce your risk of CANCER
By Olivia Cook // Jan 16, 2024

Ditching alcoholic drinks and going sober can reduce the risk of certain cancers, according to a new report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The report published in the New England Journal of Medicine said there is sufficient evidence to classify alcohol as a carcinogenic substance for its ability to cause various kinds of cancers. These include oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal, esophageal, liver, colorectal and breast cancer. Related: Alcohol abuse leads to cancer, strokes, heart disease, brain damage.)

The report also pointed out that ethanol, the main form of alcohol comprising alcoholic beverages, is the most popular psychoactive substance in the world. Given this, the IARC – which is under the World Health Organization (WHO) – stated that "no safe amount of alcohol consumption for cancers and health can be established."

A study published in Lancet Oncology also attested to this finding. According to the paper, alcohol contributed to more than 740,000 new cancer cases in 2020.

Based on the study, male cancers accounted for three-fourths of alcohol-related cancers. Moreover, 98,300 of the 172,600 alcohol-related cancer cases diagnosed in women – more than half – were breast cancer.

Dr. Harriet Rumgay, the study's lead author and a researcher at the IARC, said their paper "highlighted the contribution of even relatively low levels of alcohol to the risk of new cancer cases."

"Fewer than one in three Americans recognize alcohol as a cause of cancer. The study showed that at least four percent of the world's diagnosed cases of breast, colon, esophageal, larynx, liver, mouth and rectal cancers in 2020 can be attributed to alcohol drinking."

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Carina Ferreira Borges of the WHO's Regional Office for Europe said in a Jan. 3 news release: "We cannot talk about a so-called safe level of alcohol use. It doesn't matter how much you drink."

"The risk to the drinker's health starts from the first drop of any alcoholic beverage. The only thing that we can say for sure is that the more you drink, the more harmful it is. In other words, the less you drink, the safer it is."

How drinking alcohol increases a person's cancer risk

According to the University of Texas' MD Anderson Cancer Center, there are a few biological pathways that lead from alcohol consumption to a cancer diagnosis – which the IARC report confirmed.

  • DNA damage. Ethanol, which is found in alcoholic beverages, is the only type of alcohol intended for consumption. Your body breaks this down to form a known carcinogen called acetaldehyde – a compound that damages DNA and stops your cells from repairing the damage or triggers DNA mutations – allowing cancerous cells to grow.

  • Oxidative stress. The process of breaking down alcohol creates free radicals that cause oxidative stress by damaging cells, DNA lipids and proteins, explained Dr. Irene Orlow of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

  • Hormonal changes. Alcohol increases the levels of hormones that signal cells to grow and divide, including estrogen – the more cells divide, the more chances there are for something to go wrong and for cancer to develop.

  • Malabsorption. Alcohol also reduces your body's ability to absorb certain cancer-specific nutrients, including vitamins A, B9 (folate or folic acid), C, D and E.

In a separate study from March 2019, British researchers found that the risk of cancer from drinking one bottle of wine a week was equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes a week for women and five cigarettes for men. The study authors also suggested that the lifetime risk of cancer for non-smoking men and women would increase by one percent for men and 1.4 percent for women if each drank a bottle of wine every week.

According to the researchers' estimate, drinking three bottles of wine per week could increase lifetime cancer risk by almost two percent in men (roughly eight cigarettes per week) and 3.6 percent in women (roughly 28 cigarettes per week). has more stories like this.

Watch Dr. Pam Popper explain alcohol and cancer risk in the clip below.

This video is from the Wellness Forum Health channel on

More related stories:

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Alcohol – not marijuana – is the gateway drug, study shows.

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