Alcohol and cancer: What is the connection?

Credit: Unsplash+

Alcohol consumption is a common social and recreational activity worldwide.

However, numerous studies have highlighted the potential health risks associated with alcohol use, including its role in the development of various types of cancer.

This review article will delve into the current scientific understanding of the link between alcohol and cancer, the underlying mechanisms, and the potential risks associated with alcohol consumption.

The Link Between Alcohol and Cancer

Research has consistently shown a strong correlation between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of developing cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organization (WHO), has classified alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen, indicating that it is a known human carcinogen.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) have also concluded that alcohol is a cause of several types of cancer, including:

  1. Mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancer
  2. Esophageal cancer
  3. Liver cancer
  4. Colorectal cancer
  5. Breast cancer

While these are the most well-established links, research also suggests that alcohol may be associated with an increased risk of other cancers, such as pancreatic and stomach cancer.

The Mechanisms Behind the Connection

Although the exact mechanisms by which alcohol contributes to cancer development are not yet fully understood, several factors are believed to play a role:

Acetaldehyde: When alcohol is consumed, it is metabolized primarily in the liver to produce acetaldehyde, a toxic chemical and known carcinogen.

Acetaldehyde can damage DNA, interfere with the body’s natural DNA repair mechanisms, and lead to the formation of harmful molecules called reactive oxygen species, which can contribute to the development of cancer.

Oxidative stress: Alcohol consumption can cause an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to neutralize them, leading to oxidative stress. This can cause cellular damage and increase the risk of cancer.

Hormonal imbalances: Alcohol consumption can interfere with hormone regulation, particularly estrogen levels, which may contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer in women.

Nutrient absorption: Alcohol can hinder the absorption of essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, which play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy body and preventing cancer.

Liver damage: Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to liver damage, inflammation, and cirrhosis, which can increase the risk of liver cancer.

The Risks Associated with Alcohol Consumption

The risks associated with alcohol consumption and cancer development are dose-dependent, meaning the more alcohol a person consumes, the higher their risk of developing cancer.

Even moderate alcohol consumption, defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers.

It is important to note that there is no “safe” level of alcohol consumption when it comes to cancer risk, although the risks are lower for those who consume alcohol in moderation.

However, for individuals with a family history of cancer or other risk factors, even moderate alcohol consumption may be best avoided.

Furthermore, it is important to consider the type of alcohol consumed, as certain beverages may contain additional carcinogens.

For example, some studies have shown that beer and spirits may have a higher cancer risk compared to wine due to their higher levels of contaminants and carcinogenic compounds.


The evidence linking alcohol consumption to cancer is strong and well-established. Consuming alcohol increases the risk of several types of cancer, with the risk rising proportionally to the amount of alcohol consumed.

The mechanisms behind this connection involve the production of toxic byproducts, oxidative stress, hormonal imbalances, and nutrient absorption disruption.

Understanding the risks associated with alcohol consumption is crucial for making informed decisions about one’s health and lifestyle choices.

While moderate alcohol consumption may be safe for some individuals, those with a family history of cancer or other risk factors should consider limiting or avoiding alcohol altogether to reduce their risk of developing cancer.

If you care about cancer, please read studies about the causes of cancer, and vitamin D supplements could strongly reduce cancer death.

For more information about cancer, please see recent studies about how drinking milk affects the risks of heart disease and cancer, and results showing low-fat diet could be key to stopping cancer growth.

Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.