Alcohol Consumption and Cancer Rates by Stephen Rohrer D.O.

This post was written by Katie Rusk

May 10, 2013

When it comes to health and wellness, the San Diego Sports Medicine Executive Wellness Program strives to provide honest and practical information to stave off disease and improve overall health.  It is commonly accepted that moderate alcohol consumption, such as 1-2 glasses of wine per day, can be cardio-protective.  However, when examining cancer and alcohol we tend to avoid the proverbial “elephant in the room”, the carcinogenic association that is clearly seen with overconsumption of alcohol. Generally, more than 3 drinks per day is considered overconsumption (1 drink = 2 oz hard liquor, 4 oz wine or 12 oz beer).

The problem is not a scarcity of information regarding alcohol consumption but rather a lack of application.

New research is painting a clear picture of the correlation between alcohol consumption and a heightened risk of various cancers.  For instance, one study shows that low to moderate alcohol consumption increases the risk of certain cancers including breast cancer in women.  This increased risk for breast cancer linked to increased alcohol consumption has been a consistent finding in a majority of epidemiologic studies during the past two decades.

The growing tide of cancers from alcohol consumption is not unique to women, but affects men also.   “Cancers of the upper [GI] tract are directly correlated to consumption of spirits; and cancers of the stomach, large bowel, kidney, and bladder (for men) to consumption of beer.”

In light of this research, it is wise to consider a few practical guidelines.  First, consumption should not exceed two drinks in any 24 hour period because of the high correlation between consumption and greater cancer risk.  Second, evaluate your current alcohol habits and determine if a decrease in drinking would be beneficial to your overall health and wellness.  Finally, if there is a strong family or personal history of cancer, then stricter consideration should be given to individual daily limits.

If you need help deciding what amount of alcohol is appropriate for you, then consult your primary care physician for further advice.