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Many people know that excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages can lead to numerous health problems. However, some are unaware that researchers have linked heavy drinking to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, breast, pancreas and stomach.

Additionally, a research study performed at Moffitt Cancer Center has shown that men who consume excessive amounts of alcohol have a greater risk of becoming infected with human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that has been found to contribute to the development of a number of cancers in women, including cervical, vaginal and anal cancers.

But, that is not the whole story. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), low-to-moderate alcohol intake can actually lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Even so, given the known risks of alcohol consumption – cancer, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, alcoholism and accidents, to name a few – the AHA does not recommend that people start drinking alcohol solely for its protective effect on heart health. Instead, the AHA advises people who choose to drink to do so in moderation and to make other lifestyle changes, such as exercising, that can provide cardiovascular benefits.

Similarly, as part of its cancer prevention guidelines, the American Cancer Society recommends that people who drink alcohol limit their intake to:

  • No more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men
  • No more than one alcoholic drink per day for women

Different guidelines apply to men and women because women tend to be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of alcohol. That’s because women generally have a lower body mass than men, and their bodies also have a tendency to break down alcohol more slowly, meaning that a higher concentration of alcohol is absorbed into the blood.

If you have questions about alcohol consumption and cancer risk, you can arrange to talk with an oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing a new patient registration form online. No referrals are necessary.