In a statement released November 7 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, ASCO said it has evidence identifying alcohol consumption as a definite cancer risk, citing 5 to 6 percent of new cancers and deaths related to cancer around the world as directly tied to alcoholic use.
Drinking is linked to 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the US, which is about 21,000 Americans every year. The link between increased alcohol consumption and cancer has been firmly established. According to the National Cancer Opinion Survey conducted by ASCO earlier this year, 70% of Americans do not identify alcohol as a risk factor for cancer, and only 38% are limiting their alcohol intake as a way to reduce the risk of cancer. Whether consumption is light, moderate, or heavy, alcohol causes cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, and head and neck, the authors reported.
"ASCO believes that a proactive stance by the Society to minimize excessive exposure to alcohol has important implications for cancer prevention", the statement, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, said.
"What we are learning more about is what exactly the risk is", LoConte said.
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Drinking - even small or moderate amounts - was especially closely associated with increased risks for esophogeal, mouth, liver, colorectal and breast cancers, and is responsible for more than five per cent of cancers and cancer deaths worldwide.
The group representing doctors has also called for new initiatives in public health to curb the use of alcohol from restrictions on ads that target minors to taxes. "In cancers for which both alcohol drinking and cigarette smoking are causal factors, the cancer risks in those who are both alcohol drinkers and cigarette smokers are much larger than the risks seen for those who only drink alcohol or only smoke cigarettes", reads the statement. "And if you don't drink, don't start, '" Noelle LoConte, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the lead author of the ASCO statement, told the New York Times. The connection between rising alcohol intake and cancer has been substantially confirmed.
"The evidence is very clear", she said.
"For the liver it is a bit different: alcohol causes cirrhosis and it is actually the cirrhosis that causes the cancer", she says.