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Healthy cells grow, duplicate and die normally, without causing any harm to the body. Most cells have genes inside them which are made up of DNA. When cells multiply, sometimes there can be a change in the DNA.

House Call: Alcohol-Related Cancers

This change is called a mutation and it results in a cell not growing, duplicating or dying as it should. These mutations can happen by chance, through inherited genetic faults or from environmental factors such as alcohol consumption. These are called tumours. There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at these sites 6 in the body including:. Studies have found the risk of alcohol-caused cancer at these increases with the amount of alcohol consumed.

Alcohol is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen.


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This is the highest level of certainty, like for tobacco smoke and asbestos. Alcohol is broken down and forms acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde can damage cells because it can bond with DNA causing cells that are replicated to be replicated incorrectly. Alcohol can also cause direct tissue damage, and this increases the absorption of other carcinogens cancer causing agents that those cells come into contact with. For cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and liver there is strong evidence that the DNA damage is due to acetaldehyde. For breast cancer, the mechanism appears to be alcohol interfering with the metobolism of oestrogen, and increasing the circulating levels of sex hormones.

These sex hormones encourage cell division.


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There is evidence that the combined effects of smoking and drinking alcohol can increase the risk of certain cancers, compared with someone only drank or only smoked. Alcohol has no real nutritional benefit. However it is high in calories kilojoules , with 29 kilojoules per gram of pure alcohol. This means one standard drink 10g of alcohol , such as a mL glass of wine, has kilojoules from the alcohol alone.

What Are the Guidelines for Alcohol Use?

This can see alcohol indirectly contributing to cancers that are associated with high body fat including oesophagus, pancreas, bowel, breast in postmenopausal women , endometrium and kidney. From and , the total number of alcohol-related cancer deaths in Western Australia was estimated at 1, How do cancer calls grow and spread?

Alcohol consumption as a cause of cancer. Minus Related Pages.

House Call: Alcohol-Related Cancers

Resize View Larger. Close Drinking alcohol raises the risk of some cancers. More Information. Related Resources. Stay Informed. Links with this icon indicate that you are leaving the CDC website. Linking to a non-federal website does not constitute an endorsement by CDC or any of its employees of the sponsors or the information and products presented on the website.

House Call: Alcohol-Related Cancers | MD Anderson Cancer Center

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