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Can Alcohol Abuse Cause Cancer?

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Drinking alcohol is a common social activity enjoyed by many around the world. However, excessive or prolonged alcohol abuse can have severe consequences for our health, including an increased risk of developing cancer.

If you or someone you care about struggles with dependence on alcohol or another substance, addiction treatment programs, like those provided by Guardian Recovery, offer the best chance for recovery. We will work with you to develop an individualized and effective program to help you recover from addiction and get you on the road to long-term recovery. We believe in the benefits of a full curriculum of clinical care, beginning with medical detoxification, transitioning into a higher level of treatment, and concluding with personalized aftercare planning. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options in your area.

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Can Alcohol Abuse Raise the Risks of Developing Cancer?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all alcoholic drinks, including red and white wine, beer, and liquor, are linked with cancer. The more you drink, the higher your risk is for developing cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialized agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), has classified alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen, indicating sufficient evidence to establish a causal relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer.

What Types of Cancer Can Result from Alcohol Consumption?

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) reports that alcohol increases the risk of at least six cancers, including:

  • Head and neck cancer: Alcohol abuse is a significant risk factor for cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus.
  • Liver cancer: Prolonged alcohol abuse can lead to the development of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma.
  • Breast cancer: Studies have shown that even moderate alcohol consumption can increase the risk of breast cancer in women.
  • Colorectal cancer: Alcohol abuse has been linked to an elevated risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Pancreatic cancer: Alcohol consumption is considered a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
  • Stomach cancer: Excessive alcohol consumption has been associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer.

Does Heavy Alcohol Use Reduce Life Expectancy?

Heavy alcohol use can significantly impact life expectancy. Chronic alcohol abuse increases the risk of developing numerous health conditions, including liver diseases (such as cirrhosis), cardiovascular diseases, and the cancers mentioned earlier. These health complications can lead to a reduced life expectancy.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), excessive alcohol consumption can shorten the lifespan by an average of 29 years. Research by AICR in 2017 revealed that alcohol contributed to an average of more than 75,000 cancer cases and almost 19,000 cancer deaths per year in the United States alone.

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Statistics & Yearly Cancer Rates Caused by Alcohol Use

According to the IARC, alcohol consumption was responsible for approximately 741,000 new cancer cases and 398,000 cancer-related deaths globally in 2020.

In the United States, alcohol-related cancers accounted for an estimated 5.5% of all new cancer cases in 2020, resulting in about 3.3% of cancer deaths.

In Europe, alcohol-related cancers caused approximately 135,000 deaths in 2020, representing 5.3% of all cancer deaths.

The Relationship Between Drinking & Smoking & Cancer Development

There is a complex relationship between drinking and smoking when it comes to developing cancer. Both activities increase your risk for certain types of cancers independently and combined. For example, if you smoke cigarettes while drinking heavily, you are more likely to develop oral or throat cancers than someone who only smokes or drinks heavily, but not both.

A new global study has found that lifestyle risk factors such as alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking are important risk factors for bowel cancer. The study results offer an interesting insight into the overall lifetime risk of cancer-related to alcohol and smoking. They show that drinking even small amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of certain types of cancer, including breast, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, and colorectal cancers. Whereas smoking is linked to at least 15 types of cancer, the most common being lung cancer.

Does Quitting Alcohol Use Reverse or Reduce Risks of Cancer?

Quitting alcohol use can significantly reduce the risks of developing alcohol-related cancers. Research suggests that the risk of developing certain cancers decreases over time after quitting drinking. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that women who abstained from alcohol for more than 20 years had a similar risk of developing breast cancer as those who never drank.

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No matter the substance, the best way to overcome addiction is with the help of experienced, trusted professionals like those at Guardian Recovery. We provide comprehensive treatment, including medically-assisted detox, therapy, specialty programs, and reintegration support. Our caring and skilled administrative, medical, and clinical teams will guide you through every step of your recovery process from the first time you call. We provide a complimentary assessment and a free insurance benefits check and help coordinate local travel to our facility. All you have to do is ask; we will take care of the rest. Contact us today.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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