Happy hour has just got a little bit sad

New statement warns against light drinking
sad face

The link between alcohol consumption and some cancers is well known, but it is only now scientists are warning that even light drinking is not without risk.

A new statement from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) says that while there is a dose-response relationship between alcohol and cancer, “even modest use” — consuming even one drink a day — is potentially hazardous.

This level of alcohol consumption is still associated with some elevated risk for squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus, oropharyngeal cancer and breast cancer, write the authors in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

However, they report no discernable associations for cancers of the colorectum, larynx, and liver.

ASCO's conclusions come from a meta-analysis of more than 150 studies.

Overall, the authors say that alcohol “is causally associated with oropharyngeal and larynx cancer, esophageal cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, breast cancer, and colon cancer”. 

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the WHO, has assessed the evidence and come to virtually identical conclusions.

However, the full range of cancers for which alcohol drinking represents a risk factor remains to be clarified.

“As evidence continues to accumulate, the list of alcohol-associated cancers is likely to grow,” the ASCO paper says.

A valid question is whether these links are specific to ethanol per se or whether they vary according to alcohol type.

“The answer”, say the authors, “is that the associations between alcohol drinking and cancer risk have been observed consistently, regardless of the specific type of alcoholic beverage.

"If alcoholic drinks are consumed, limit consumption to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women".