Doctors: Drinking Alcohol Increases Risk of Cancer, Not Enough Americans Know That
By John Herrick
February 16, 2022
STATEWIDE — Drinking too much alcohol puts you at risk of getting cancer. Doctors and physicians are concerned that not enough people know about alcohol and the health risks associated with it.
A new nationwide survey found that only 20% of Americans were aware that wine increases cancer risk; 25% knew beer did so, and 31% knew that liquor increased cancer risk. Only 44% of patients said their doctor had discussed the harms of alcohol in the last 12 months.
65% of those who responded in the survey supported warning labels on alcohol. 64% were in favor of drinking guidelines and 34% supported a ban on outdoor alcohol advertising.
Dr. Tod Huntley, Medical Director for Head and Neck Cancer Services with Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis, says part of the problem is that physicians and doctors need to do a better job with their message to patients.
“We’re all good at telling patients to lose weight, to stop smoking, to do other things like that but I think it’s a small minority of physicians who stress alcohol use enough with patients,” said Huntley.
According to the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025, individuals who do not drink alcohol should not start drinking for any reason. The Dietary Guidelines also recommend that people who drink alcohol do so in moderation by limiting consumption to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women.
Heavy alcohol drinking is defined as having 4 or more drinks on any day or 8 or more drinks per week for women and 5 or more drinks on any day or 15 or more drinks per week for men.
“No one will say the occasional drink will do anything, but it’s the continuous usage over a number of years, much like cigarettes, that will have that increased risk,” said Huntley.
Alcohol is broken down inside the body into a known carcinogen called acetaldehyde. The buildup of that substance increases your risk of cancer. People who smoke in addition to drinking alcohol experience multiplied risks for cancer.