Responsible Drinking? Not Very
“Responsible drinking” has become a 21st-century mantra for how most people view alcohol consumption. But when it comes to cancer, no amount of alcohol is safe. That is the conclusion of the 2014 World Cancer Report (WCR), issued by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Declared a carcinogen by the IARC in 1988, alcohol is causally related to several cancers. “We have known for a long time that alcohol causes esophageal cancer, says Jürgen Rehm, PhD, WCR contributor on alcohol consumption, and Senior Scientist at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, “but the relationship with other tumors, such as breast cancer, has come to our attention only in the past 10-15 years.”
The Risk Is Dose-Dependent
The more alcohol that a person drinks, the higher the risk. The alcohol/cancer link has been strengthened by the finding of a dose/response relationship between alcohol consumption and certain cancers. A causal relationship exists between alcohol consumption and cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon-rectum, liver, and female breast; a significant relationship also exists between alcohol consumption and pancreatic cancer.
Links have also been made between alcohol consumption and leukemia; multiple myeloma; and cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, and skin, but fewer studies have looked at these relationships and more research is needed to establish a confirmed association. For bladder, lung, and stomach cancers, the evidence for an alcohol-cancer link is conflicting.