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Does Drinking Alcohol Increase My Risk of Cancer?

April 04, 2018

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Drinking alcohol is part of American culture. We use it to socialize, celebrate and even enhance some religious ceremonies. Even so, you are probably already aware that drinking too much beer, wine or hard liquor – either occasionally or on a regular basis – can lead to a number of serious health issues that extend far beyond hangovers. That’s because alcohol can take a significant toll on your body, especially your brain, liver, pancreas and heart.

In addition to impairing your mood, judgment and behavior, drinking alcohol can cause or contribute to the development of cirrhosis, fibrosis, fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, pancreatitis, high blood pressure, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, stroke and obesity. But, what you may not know is that it can also weaken your immune system and increase your risk of several types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, liver, pancreas, stomach, colon, rectum and breast.

American Cancer Center guidelines for alcohol consumption

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we are committed to raising public awareness about the dangerous link between alcohol consumption and cancer, and also to helping everyone reduce their cancer risk. Toward that end, we advise people who choose to drink to follow the cancer prevention guidelines* established by the American Cancer Society, which recommends limiting alcohol consumption to no more than:

  • Two drinks per day for men
  • One drink per day for women

Alcohol affects different people in different ways. Many unique factors related to genetics, environment and lifestyle can play a role in your vulnerability to the adverse effects of drinking. While you can’t change your genes, and you may or may not be able to change your environment, your lifestyle is up to you. Studies have confirmed that it is possible to reduce cancer risk by abstaining or drinking less.

If you have questions or concerns about your individual cancer risk, call Moffitt Cancer Center at 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. No referrals are necessary.

*Different guidelines are provided for men and women because women generally have a lower body mass than men, and their bodies also tend to break down alcohol more slowly. As a result, a higher concentration of alcohol is absorbed into their blood.