Understanding the Alcohol-Cancer Connection

does alchol cause cancer

Alcohol also reduces the body’s ability to absorb certain cancer-protective nutrients, including vitamins A, C, D, E and folate. “Making a spritzer is a great way to have a fancy drink but still cut back on the alcoholic intake,” Bender says. “You can cut your wine with sparkling water or even make festive drinks that don’t contain alcohol at all but have fruit purées or sparkling water in them. There are many ways to make a drink festive and fun without adding alcohol.” Bender says that when dietitians counsel patients they should talk about their personal risk factors as well as their overall diet and help them make changes where they can. These findings may give them the motivation they need to limit or eliminate alcohol, Bender adds. Smoking can also affect how chemotherapy drugs are processed by your body, potentially reducing the effectiveness of your treatment.

The overall percentage of all T cells, as well as of CD4+ T-, CD8+ T-, B-, and NK cells, in contrast, did not differ between cancer and control patients. However, this effect cannot be clearly attributed to alcohol because the patients also were heavy tobacco users. The study found that among healthy participants, those with high alcohol consumption or smoking had a pronounced decrease of antigen-specific antibody production in vitro. The effect was more pronounced in heavy drinkers than in excessive cigarette smokers. Cancer patients who were heavy drinkers, in contrast, did not show any antigen-specific antibody production in vitro.

Is it safe for someone to drink alcohol while undergoing cancer chemotherapy?

If you are a cancer survivor, talk with your doctor about how much alcohol you drink and the effect it could have on your long-term health. You and your doctor may decide that you should limit your drinking even more. “Convincing” or “probable” evidence means there is strong research showing a causal relationship to cancer—either decreasing or increasing the risk.

  • Drinking alcohol even at lower levels of intake can increase the risk of cancer and we previously estimated that over 100,000 cases of cancer in 2020 were caused by light and moderate drinking of the equivalent of around one or two alcoholic drinks per day [1].
  • This response is characterized by inflammatory reactions involving various mediators, including chemokines and cytokines that are produced by a variety of immune cells, such as macrophages, neutrophils, NK cells, and dendritic cells.
  • For oral and oropharyngeal cancer, an MR study using genetic data on 6000 oral or oropharyngeal cancer cases and 6600 controls found a positive causal effect of alcohol consumption independent of smoking [16].
  • This lack of interaction between alcohol consumption and NK-cell cytolytic activity in B16BL6 melanoma lung metastasis was further confirmed in another strain of mice (i.e., beige mice) that naturally have low NK cytolytic activity (Spitzer et al. 2000).
  • “You can cut your wine with sparkling water or even make festive drinks that don’t contain alcohol at all but have fruit purées or sparkling water in them. There are many ways to make a drink festive and fun without adding alcohol.”
  • A recent study compared innate immune-system functionality with the number of circulating tumor cells in patients with a variety of cancers.

Fewer drinks are better than more drinks, but any drinking increases the risk for alcohol-related cancers. Increased ethanol consumption can induce microbial dysbiosis and bacterial overgrowth in the intestine [20]. Chronic alcohol consumption has been linked with decreased levels of retinoids in the liver [21], and low levels of retinol in the blood have been linked with higher risk of head and neck cancers [31]. Retinoids may also play a role in other signalling pathways implicated in cancer development, such as oestrogen and breast cancer [31].

What is the evidence that alcohol drinking can cause cancer?

It may worsen side effects like nausea, dehydration and mouth sores caused by chemotherapy and other cancer drugs. It also increases the risk for a recurrence of diseases like breast cancer. When combined with alcohol, this type of medication can increase the risk of some cancers, like breast cancer. Your doctor may suggest you reduce your drinking while taking this kind of medication. There is further hypothesis that alcohol consumption might activate the pathways of other carcinogenic agents; this could occur through the alcohol-induced activity of CYP2E1 which may metabolise pro-carcinogens in tobacco smoke and industrial chemicals [21].

does alchol cause cancer

Here, we discuss evidence from large meta-analyses of observational studies and emerging evidence from Mendelian randomisation studies. The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) also conducts classification of physical and dietary components and their potential cancerous effects as part of their Continuous Update Project. The WCRF base their conclusions on the quality of epidemiological evidence and carry https://sober-home.org/ out meta-analyses of the association with cancer risk. Researchers also studied the effects of alcohol on estrogen receptor–negative mouse mammary tumors. One study involving estrogen receptor–negative Met-1 cancer cells used female FVB/N mice that consumed 20 percent w/v ethanol in drinking water for 18 weeks before they were injected subcutaneously with the cancer cells (Hong et al. 2010).

While studies have provided evidence on alcohol’s carcinogenic potential, further understanding of alcohol’s pathways to cancer development will inform the direction of future research. This information is useful to corroborate existing evidence, develop chemoprevention strategies, and could improve cancer therapy, but there is already a wealth of evidence to support the need for further alcohol control and cancer prevention efforts. We have discussed evidence on mechanistic and epidemiological research in the field, and this information must be used to decrease the burden of cancers, as well as other diseases and injuries, attributable to alcohol. These experiments showed that 10 percent w/v ethanol did not affect metastasis after intravenous tumor inoculation in female C57BL/6 mice consuming alcohol for 2 weeks or spontaneous metastasis in mice injected 1 week after initiating ethanol feeding. However, lung metastasis was inhibited if intravenous injection of tumor cells occurred at 4, 6.5, 7, and 12 weeks after initiation of 20 percent w/v ethanol. Similarly, spontaneous metastasis to the lung was significantly inhibited in mice injected with melanoma at 1, 4, 6.5, and 10 weeks of consuming 20 percent ethanol.

For example, it can replace fluids that are lost through diarrhea or soften stools if you’re experiencing constipation. As previously discussed, chemotherapy can weaken your immune system, increasing the risk of infections. Foods that are raw or undercooked can contain germs that can cause food poisoning. While on chemo, you may need to avoid certain foods, including raw and undercooked foods, and beverages, such as alcohol. Recently, researchers from MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, United Kingdom, set out to gain a clearer picture of the alcohol-cancer relationship using whole animals.

Alcohol is one part of our diet

Researchers believe alcohol makes the throat more susceptible to the poisons in tobacco smoke. One reason alcohol may not have the same stigma as smoking is that, while drinking may increase cancer risk, tobacco use has a much clearer correlation, says Pankaj Vashi, MD, Vice Chief of Staff eco sober house price at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), Chicago. If you are a cancer survivor, you may worry about drinking alcohol and your risk of cancer recurrence. Recent research has shown that any amount of alcohol can increase your risks for certain health conditions, including cancer.

Because chemotherapy drugs can affect healthy cells, coming into contact with them in various body fluids can be potentially harmful to yourself or others. That’s why it’s a good idea to avoid contact with body fluids that may contain them. Many people avoid quitting because the thought of quitting cold turkey is daunting. However, you are heading in the right direction even if you cut out one drink or cigarette daily while working out a plan with your provider.

9. Liver Cirrhosis

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) — a condition involving alcohol use even though it may harm the body — can increase a person’s risk of developing throat cancer. Talk with your health care provider about the potential health benefits and risks of drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol. If findings of alcohol’s impact on cancer risk have yet to deter many people from drinking, it may be because most people aren’t aware of them.

Absorption problems with alcohol

MCP-1 plays an important role in suppressing antitumor immune functions and facilitating tumor metastasis (Kudo-Saito et al. 2013), indicating another mechanism through which alcohol could promote breast cancer progression. Most research involving alcohol and cancer concerns the relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer risk and the mechanisms of carcinogenesis. This review relates the amount and duration of alcohol intake in humans and in animal models of cancer to tumor growth, angiogenesis, invasion, metastasis, immune response, and host survival in specific types and subtypes of cancer. Research on the influence of alcohol drinking on human cancer patients is limited. Although there is more information in animal models of cancer, many aspects still are ill defined. More research is needed to define the mechanisms that underlie the role of alcohol on cancer progression in both animals and humans.

AICR is committed to putting what we know about cancer prevention into action. To help you live healthier, we’ve taken the latest research and made 10 Cancer Prevention Recommendations. AICR champions research that increases understanding of the relationship between nutrition, lifestyle, and cancer. Whether you are a healthcare provider, a researcher, or just someone who wants to learn more about cancer prevention, we’re here to help.

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