Alcohol gives you bigger cancer risk if you are obese or overweight

Credit: CC0 Public Domain.

Scientists from The University of Sydney found that being overweight or obese amplifies the harmful effects of alcohol and the risk of developing alcohol-related cancer, particularly in people with a high body fat percentage.

They also found a dose-response link between higher obesity levels and the risk of developing obesity-related cancers, irrespective of alcohol drinking.

The research was presented at European Congress on Obesity and was conducted by Dr. Elif Inan-Eroglu et al.

Worldwide, 4% (741,300) of new cancer cases in 2020 were linked to alcohol consumption, and overweight and obesity are linked with a higher risk of 13 types of cancer that account for over 40% of all these cancers diagnosed in the U.S.

However, estimates suggest that more than half of cancers are potentially preventable—with alcohol the third leading preventable cause of cancer behind tobacco and obesity.

In the study, the team examined how obesity and alcohol consumption together affect cancer risks.

They combined data from 399,575 participants (aged 40–69 years; 55% female) from the U.K. Biobank prospective cohort, who were cancer-free when the study began and followed for an average of 12 years.

Over an average follow-up of 12 years, 17,617 participants were diagnosed with alcohol-related cancer, and 20,214 developed obesity-related cancer.

The researchers found that across all obesity markers (body fat percentage, waist circumference, and BMI), people with higher body fat percentage levels who drank more than the recommended guidelines, were at greater risk of cancer.

For example, people with the highest third body fat percentage who drank within the recommended alcohol guidelines were 53% more likely to develop alcohol-related cancers than those with the lowest body fat percentage who never drank; while those who drank above alcohol guidelines were at 61% greater risk.

Regardless of alcohol intake, the analysis identified a dose-response link between larger waist circumference and the risk of developing obesity-related cancer.

For example, people with bigger waistlines who drank more than the recommended alcohol guidelines had a 17% greater risk of developing obesity-related cancer compared to those with a healthy waistline who never drank; while in people with the largest waistlines who drank above alcohol guidelines, the risk was 28% higher.

These results suggest that people with obesity, especially those with excess body fat, need to be more aware of the risks of alcohol drinking.

When it comes to the lifestyle factors and habits that people can change to reduce their risk of cancer, obesity and alcohol are top of the list.

If you care about alcohol, please read studies that Alzheimer’s drug may reverse brain damage from alcohol drinking and a new method to treat alcoholic liver disease.

For more information about cancer, please see recent studies about what you need to know about supplements and cancer, and results showing this inexpensive drug could help treat cancer.

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