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Ask Dr. Nandi: Even a little alcohol may raise cancer risk

Posted: 5:27 AM, Dec 10, 2019
Updated: 2019-12-10 05:28:06-05

In our Health Alert tonight, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol has been linked to an increased risk for cancer. The study took place in Japan and the association was notably strong for 4 types of cancers.

When researchers looked at over 63,000 Japanese cancer patients and their drinking habits, they found that the risk of cancer increased by 5% if one drink a day was consumed for 10 years compared to non-drinkers. And that number shot up to 54% if two drinks a day was consumed for 40 years.

Now associations to four particular cancers stood out – and they were cancers of the mouth, throat, colon and stomach.

The Japanese do have genetic variations that affect how alcohol is metabolized. So if the same study took place here, we might not have the same results.

But we do know that the more anyone drinks, the higher the cancer risk. And that’s because your body breaks it down into acetaldehyde. Which is a chemical that not only damages your DNA but prevents your body from repairing that damage. And this can open the door to potential cancer tumors.

The CDC does have specific guidelines. And they outline moderate drinking as up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. And that roughy translates into:

  • 12-ounces of beer
  • 5-ounces of wine
  • And 1.5-ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor

Now regarding wine, while there are some studies that suggest a glass may lower the risk for heart disease, the research around cancer is less clear and epidemiological studies had not reported a protective effect.

So do please do keep all of this in mind during the holiday season while you’re out celebrating with friends and family.