We’ve all heard that heavy alcohol use increases the risk of cancer, and that even moderate drinking – up to 2 drinks a day – can increase the risk of breast cancer. But now there’s a 2012 study out of Italy that suggests that as little as 1 drink per day may increase cancer risk!
Alcohol—including beer, wine, and “hard liquor”—is a known risk factor for several cancers. These include cancers of the colon, breast, larynx, liver, esophagus, mouth and pharynx (throat). Alcohol promotes cancer in several ways: It’s broken down in the body to an organic chemical called acetaldehyde, which not only triggers hangover symptoms, but has the ability to damage our DNA. Alcohol also increases the levels of hormones such as estrogen in the body, can damage the liver, causes free radicals in the body, and makes it easier for harmful chemicals in tobacco to enter the tissues of the mouth and throat.
Previous work has shown us that people drinking 4 or more drinks a day are at higher risk for mouth and throat cancers. With breast cancer, for every additional 10 grams of alcohol daily (a little less than one drink), breast cancer risk goes up 7-10%. According to one study, smaller amounts of alcohol may also contribute to colon cancer: for each additional 16 grams of alcohol (the amount in a pint of premium beer or large glass of wine), risk increased by 9%.