Would You Skip the Drink to Lower Your Cancer Risk?

By Amanda Sangster - January 10, 2022

As alcohol consumption continues to increase for Americans during the pandemic, many are kicking off the new year with Dry January as their New Year’s resolution, choosing a 31-day period of full sobriety.

Dry January began in 2012 as a public health initiative in the United Kingdom to decrease alcohol abuse. For nearly a decade, the movement has attracted global participants looking to achieve sobriety following heavy imbibing over the holiday season.

While some studies have shown that moderate drinking can yield health benefits, like reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in men, abstaining from alcohol can promote a healthy lifestyle. Abstainers preach increased energy, better sleep, better stress management and weight loss.

But one of the biggest benefits is lowering your overall risk of cancer.

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"Limiting your alcohol intake for a month is a great way to kick-start having a healthy lifestyle that includes moderate drinking or complete abstinence, combined with a healthy diet and exercise. This is the best way to decrease cancer risk."

- Dr. Shelley Tworoger, Associate Center Director of Population Science

Alcohol use throughout the pandemic has increased among Americans, according to a December 2020 survey. The results showed that more people are turning to beer and wine to ease ongoing pandemic anxiety. Participants that reported experiencing COVID-related stress also reported a higher consumption rate. Accessibility to alcohol at home and lockdown-induced boredom have also contributed to increased consumption rates.

A study published in July 2021 in The Lancet Oncology found that 4% of all new cases of cancer in 2020 were attributable to alcohol consumption. Of the 741,300 cases linked to alcohol, the study found cancers of the esophagus, liver and breast were the most prevalent. Alcohol is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.

Dr. Shelley Tworoger, associate center director of Population Science at Moffitt Cancer Center, says alcohol consumption, especially heavy or binge drinking, is an important contributor to the development of some cancers, including head and neck, gastrointestinal and among women, breast.

“Drinking alcohol is a personal choice,” said Tworoger. “Limiting your alcohol intake for a month is a great way to kick-start having a healthy lifestyle that includes moderate drinking or complete abstinence, combined with a healthy diet and exercise. This is the best way to decrease cancer risk.”

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