Want to Lower Chances of Cancer? Skip the Alcohol

December 14, 2016

A new study has reinforced earlier research that alcohol is associated with increased risk of cancer. In the past, a connection was made between alcohol consumption and cancers of the digestive tract, liver, pancreas, colon and rectum, plus breast cancer in women. Now, alcohol has been associated with an increased risk of melanoma or skin cancer.

Worldwide, research has shown that 3.6% of all cancers can be associated with alcohol consumption. This study showed a definite connection between the number of drinks consumed and an increased risk of skin cancer—specifically, melanomas of areas that did not normally get much exposure to sunlight, such as a person’s trunk.

For reasons not thoroughly understood by the researchers, only white wine was associated with this increased risk. It was thought that this greater risk might be because white wine naturally has higher levels of acetaldehyde. When alcohol is consumed, one of the chemicals it breaks down into is acetaldehyde which damages DNA and prevents the body from making DNA repairs. This higher level of acetaldehyde even before consumption could account for increased DNA damage that can develop into melanoma.

Glasses of white wine could be contributing to increases in melanoma cases.

Both this study and a review of more than 200 studies on alcohol’s association with cancer found that the more alcohol consumed, the higher the risk. When a person also used tobacco, their risk was even higher. This review of earlier studies was not able to determine a “safe” level of alcohol consumption—that is, one that would not increase one’s cancer risk.

Many people struggle with work, relationship and health problems when they drink daily or excessively. This connection between cancer and alcohol offers yet another reason to find the right support to start a new life of sobriety.





Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.