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Genetics, environment, and lifestyle habits can all heighten your risk of getting cancer. We can't do anything to change our genes, and we often can't do much to change our environment. But lifestyle habits are a different story.

Drinking too much alcohol is one lifestyle habit that can increase your risk of developing certain cancers. This does not mean that anyone who drinks too much will develop cancer. But numerous studies do show the more you drink, the more you increase your chances of developing certain types of cancer.

For example, a group of Italy-based scientists reviewed more than 200 studies examining alcohol's impact on cancer risk.The collective results of these studies clearly demonstrate that the more you drink, the higher your risk for developing a variety of cancers.The National Cancer Institute identifies alcohol as a risk factor for the following types of cancer:

-Mouth
-Esophagus
-Pharynx
-Larynx
-Liver
-Breast

At least 7 out of 10 people with mouth cancer drink heavily. Drinking five or more drinks per day can also increase your risk of developing other types of cancers, including colon or rectal cancer. In fact, summary estimates from the recent World Cancer Research Fund report indicate that women who drink five standard alcohol drinks each day have about 1.2 times the risk of developing colon or rectal cancer than women who do not drink at all.

People who drink are also more likely to smoke, and the combination increases the risk significantly. Smoking alone is a known risk factor for some cancers. But smoking and drinking together intensifies the cancer-causing properties of each substance. The overall effect poses an even greater risk.

The risk of throat and mouth cancers is especially high because alcohol and tobacco both come in direct contact with those areas. Overall, people who drink and smoke are 15 times more likely to develop cancers of the mouth and throat than nondrinkers and nonsmokers. In addition, recent studies estimate that alcohol and tobacco together are responsible for:

-80 percent of throat and mouth cancer in men
-65 percent of throat and mouth cancer in women
-80 percent of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, a type of esophagus cancer
-25 to 30 percent of all liver cancers


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