Alcohol causes seven cancers, top doctors warn

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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. Whether consumption is light, moderate, or heavy, alcohol causes cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, and head and neck, the authors reported. ASCO recently did a survey and they found out that a large majority of physicians and patients were not aware of the association - this is also an opportunity to spread awareness.

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.

As we head into the holiday season, you may want to keep the following findings in mind before allowing yourself to indulge in an extra festive drink or two. McTiernan is also on the advisory panel that oversees the work of the World Cancer Research Fund.

It's not every day that a group of the nation's top cancer doctors asks people to curb their drinking.

"People typically don't associate drinking beer, wine, and hard liquor with increasing their risk of developing cancer in their lifetimes", said Bruce Johnson, M.D., FASCO, ASCO president.

The ASCO defines heavy drinking as "eight or more drinks per week or three or more drinks per day for women, and as many as fifteen or more drinks per week or four or more drinks per day for men".

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The statement provides evidence of a connection between light drinking and an increased risk of esophageal and breast cancer.

Dr. Anne McTiernan, a scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who was an author of one of the earlier reports on alcohol and breast cancer, said she was pleased that oncologists were focusing on alcohol.

Wisconsin has the highest rate among states for adult binge drinking, one type of heavy drinking, so policy changes could have a big impact in the state, she said.

"The most recent data that I have seen estimated that this was 18,200-21,300 alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. in 2009", co-author Noelle LoConte, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health was quoted while talking about the same. "And in female breast cancer, (alcohol) affects the levels of female hormones in the body, and by adjusting the levels of estrogen in particular, it increases risk of breast cancer".

"That puts some weight behind this", she said.

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