Alcohol Causes Cancer


Even light drinking increases the risk for cancer.

This was a big-deal study, specifically, a review. It’s not getting the press attention it should because people don’t like it. Businesses don’t like it. Here’s the full paper. No pay wall:

Alcohol Consumption As A Cause Of Cancer, Addiction, Online 21 July 2016

Background: There is increasing research evidence about the causal role of alcohol in cancer, accompanied by unclear and conflicting messages in the media. This paper aimed to clarify the strength of the evidence for alcohol as a cause of cancer, and the meaning of cause in this context.

Methods: Recent epidemiological and biological research on alcohol and cancer was reviewed and summarized, drawing upon published meta-analyses identified from the Medline database and the archives of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. More recent epidemiological studies not included in these publications were also reviewed.

Results: The usual epidemiological understanding of a cause is a factor that increases the incidence of a condition in the population. In the context of a body of epidemiological evidence of an association of alcohol consumption with a disease, the inference that it is a causal association requires alternative explanations of the observed finding to be judged unlikely. Even without complete knowledge of biological mechanisms, the epidemiological evidence can support the judgement that alcohol causes cancer of the oropharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast. The measured associations exhibit gradients of effect that are biologically plausible, and there is some evidence of reversibility of risk in laryngeal, pharyngeal and liver cancers when consumption ceases. The limitations of cohort studies mean that the true effects may be somewhat weaker or stronger than estimated currently, but are unlikely to be qualitatively different. The same, or similar, epidemiological studies also commonly report protection from cardiovascular disease associated with drinking but a high level of scepticism regarding these findings is now warranted.

Conclusions: There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others. Current estimates suggest that alcohol-attributable cancers at these sites make up 5.8% of all cancer deaths world-wide. Confirmation of specific biological mechanisms by which alcohol increases the incidence of each type of cancer is not required to infer that alcohol is a cause.

Look how hard industry is fighting back:

A recent example in New Zealand followed from an Alcohol and Cancer symposium that had been covered by national television news and the press. An opinion piece in the capital’s daily newspaper, disputing the evidence reported from the conference, was entitled: ‘To say moderate alcohol use causes cancer is wrong’ [5]. It included the statement: ‘While chronic abusive alcohol consumption is associated with a plethora of health problems including cancer, attributing cancer to social moderate drinking is simply incorrect and is not supported by the body of scientific literature’. The article was attributed to a former senior scientist in the United States now employed by an alcohol industry body, while continuing to publish on alcohol in the scientific literature [6, 7].

Large multi-national alcohol corporations have virtually unlimited resources available to tackle commercials threats, and cannot be expected to step back from this challenge.

Businesses are spinning, and so the public believes, that moderate alcohol consumption is safe. It’s simply not true. Moderate alcohol consumption causes cancer. There is no threshold below which cancer does not occur from drinking. Also, “there does not appear to be any variation by beverage type.”

A meta-analysis in 2013 found that light drinkers were at increased risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus and breast.

More evidence that alcohol causes cancer: it’s reversible. Your risk goes down when you stop drinking.

I knew people who drank every day, got cancer, and died from it. In my mind, their drinking caused their death. It’s a relief to finally read something that says this outright.

5 thoughts on “Alcohol Causes Cancer

  1. Bix Post author

    Since I know posting this was a sure way to lose friends and create enemies, I may as well say what else I’m thinking. We go out of our way to avoid pesticides, heavy metals, endocrine disrupters, and other pollutants in our food. But we wash it down with alcohol, which may, in the end, be the most damaging.


  2. Bix Post author

    Drinking wine or other alcohol does not benefit the heart. Benefits that were seen with moderate drinking went away when researchers adjusted for lifestyle. Turns out that people who have a glass of wine with dinner tend to do other things for their health like eating well and exercising and those things made drinking look good:

    “Residual confounding of the CVD association is plausibly responsible for the whole of the observed protective effect [42], and particularly in combination with the bias caused by misclassification of former drinkers as abstainers.”


  3. Pingback: Lymphoma And Diet: Which One Food Increases Your Risk The Most? | Fanatic Cook

  4. Scott Cousland

    I have never seen mainsteam science ever attribute the root cause of disease to the correct source: emotional trauma

    Dr. Hamer from Germany has made the connection between trauma and disease. They are very specific.

    Drinking alcohol is a method of numbing oneself to emotional pain.


    1. Bix Post author

      Well, emotional trauma may contribute to disease. I think it does. But drinking alcohol, in and of itself, damages tissues and likely contributes to cancer.

      Does everyone who drinks alcohol do it to numb themselves?



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