Can Alcohol Increase Your Risk for Cervical Cancer?
May 11, 2022
Cervical cancer develops within the cells that line your cervix, which is located between the uterus and vaginal wall. While human papillomavirus (HPV) infections remain the most common cause of cervical cancer, other risk factors may also contribute.
Alcohol consumption is a known risk factor for cancers more generally, but its direct role in cervical cancer development is less clear.
Read on to learn what the science says about alcohol and cervical cancer, and what you can do to lower your overall risk.
What’s the link between alcohol consumption and cervical cancer?
The exact links between alcohol and cervical cancer haven’t yet been established. However, researchers do know that alcohol can play a role in overall cancer development.
Why does alcohol increase your risk for cancer?
Alcohol poses a wide range of possible risks in future cancer development. First, ethanol in alcohol breaks down into a substance called acetaldehyde, which directly damages DNA. This can make your cells more vulnerable to cancer.
Additionally, alcohol can:
cause oxidative stress in your cells
decrease the absorption of essential nutrients, such as folate
increase estrogen levels
contribute to overweight and obesity
Alcohol use is responsible for 6 percent of all cancers in the United States
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), alcohol use is responsible for about 6 percent of all cancers in the United States, as well as 4 percent of related deaths. In particular, alcohol has been linked to cancers of the:
voice box (larynx)
The amount of alcohol is more important than the type
Alcohol use may also increase your risk of other cancers. As a general rule of thumb, the more alcohol you consume, the higher your riskTrusted Source. Additionally, the ACS notes that when considering breast cancer, even a small amount of alcohol could increase your risk.
While some alcoholic beverages are considered “healthier” than others, the ACS says that the type of alcohol isn’t as important in cancer risk as much as the amount.
Risks of drinking alcohol during treatment for cervical cancer
In terms of cervical cancer, research has shown that drinking alcohol during cancer treatments could potentially worsen treatment outcome. Heavy drinking may also be associated with cancer recurrence.
Are certain amounts of alcohol considered “safe”?
While the overall consensus is that no amount of alcohol is safe in terms of cancer prevention, this is a choice you should discuss carefully with a doctor.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends no more than two drinks per day for men and one per day for women. However, if you’re considered at high risk for cancer or other medical conditions, your doctor may recommend avoiding alcohol altogether.