How Are Alcohol and Cancer Linked?

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Alcohol and cancer can be strongly linked. In the United States, around 6% of all cancer diagnoses and 4% of all cancer-related deaths are attributed to alcohol consumption, according to ACS (American Cancer Society). That said, alcohol consumption is a cancer risk factor that anyone has the ability to moderate.

Alcohol and Cancer Risk

The relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer risk is dose-dependent, so the more alcohol you consume, the greater the risk. It’s a common misconception that certain alcoholic beverages are safer than others – cancer and alcohol can be linked regardless of the type of alcohol, and even at low levels of consumption.

Moderation or abstinence from alcohol can significantly diminish your cancer risk. Beyond this, reducing alcohol consumption has a cascade of additional health benefits. It can lead to a lower incidence of unintentional injuries, a decline in hypertension rates, and a reduced burden of liver disease.

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How Much Alcohol Use Is Linked to Cancer?

The consumption of alcohol is associated with an increased risk of several types of cancer, including:

  • Mouth
  • Throat (pharynx)
  • Voice box (larynx)
  • Esophagus
  • Liver
  • Colon and rectum
  • Breast

There’s also a probable link between alcohol and stomach cancer and it may influence the risk of other cancers too ­­– alcohol and prostate cancer are linked, for example. For these cancers, the risk escalates with the amount of alcohol consumed.  

Specific risks associated with different types of cancer include:

  • Cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, and esophagus: The risk for these cancers significantly increases with alcohol use. Combining alcohol with tobacco multiplies the risk far beyond the effects of either substance alone. This increased risk might be due to alcohol’s ability to streamline the entry of tobacco’s harmful chemicals into the cells lining these organs and impairing their DNA repair mechanisms.
  • Liver cancer: Chronic alcohol consumption is a known risk factor for liver cancer, mainly through the pathway of liver damage, inflammation, and scarring.
  • Colon and rectal cancer: A link exists between alcohol use and a heightened risk of colon and rectal cancers, with stronger evidence found in men.
  • Breast cancer: Even minimal alcohol use is associated with a heightened risk of breast cancer. This may be due to alcohol’s effect on increasing estrogen levels in the body, which could contribute to the risk.


Types of Cancer from Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol consumption is a causative agent for seven different types of cancer. Additionally, it is suspected to raise the likelihood of stomach cancer and may potentially influence the risk for other cancer types.

Alcohol and Breast Cancer

Many studies show that drinking alcohol increases the chance of women developing breast cancer.

Consuming alcohol causes increased levels of hormones like estrogen associated with breast cancer. Alcohol can also damage the DNA in some cells, further heightening the risk profile for breast cancer.

According to this review of studies, females consuming more than three alcoholic drinks weekly are at 15% increased risk of breast cancer compared to women who drink no alcohol. The risk rises exponentially with each additional alcoholic drink.

Among teenage girls drinking between three and five alcoholic beverages per week, the risk of developing benign breast lumps is tripled. Sometimes, benign lumps can develop into breast cancer in later life.

Alcohol and Pancreatic Cancer

Research indicates an association between those with acute pancreatitis and the subsequent development of pancreatic cancer. One of the most common reasons for the presentation of acute pancreatitis is chronic alcohol use.

Alcohol and Colon Cancer

Studies have shown that regular alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. The risk is especially evident with heavy use, which can lead to mutations and inflammatory processes in the colon, potentially triggering cancerous growths.

Alcohol and Esophageal Cancer

Alcohol intake has a well-established link with esophageal cancer, especially squamous cell carcinoma. Alcohol acts as an irritant – it damages the delicate lining of the esophagus, causing cellular changes that can increase the risk of cancer. The effect is magnified when combined with smoking.

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Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction at Ohio Recovery

If you or someone that you care about needs alcohol addiction treatment in Ohio, we offer a variety of outpatient and intensive outpatient programs at Ohio Recovery Centers.

When you engage with treatment for alcohol use disorder, you will participate in weekday therapy sessions around your existing commitments. Due to the unique nature of all addictions, you can access personalized treatments that blend medications, counseling, behavioral interventions, and holistic therapies.

For immediate assistance with overcoming alcohol addiction in Ohio, call 877-679-2132 and begin your recovery right away.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn