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One of the World's Biggest Cancer Groups Says Even Light Drinking Increases Cancer Risk

Moderation can still be dangerous with alcohol. Photograph by Scott Olson — Getty Images

Numerous studies have suggested a link between alcohol consumption and certain kinds of cancers. Now, one of the nation’s largest and most prominent associations of cancer doctors says that moderate—and even light—drinking can increase your cancer risk.

“Alcohol use—whether light, moderate, or heavy—is linked with increasing the risk of several leading cancers, including those of the breast, colon, esophagus, and head and neck,” said the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in a statement Wednesday. Breast and colon cancers are among the biggest cancer-related killers in the country, claiming nearly 95,000 American lives each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The ASCO report goes on to pinpoint just how many of these fatal cancers are linked to drinking alcohol. And for many, it may be a surprising number—5-6% of new cancers and cancer deaths around the world are directly caused by alcohol consumption of any volume, according to the evidence gathered by ASCO.

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“People typically don’t associate drinking beer, wine, and hard liquor with increasing their risk of developing cancer in their lifetimes. However, the link between increased alcohol consumption and cancer has been firmly established and gives the medical community guidance on how to help their patients reduce their risk of cancer,” said ASCO President Dr. Bruce Johnson in a statement. Dr. Noelle K. LoConte of the University of Wisconsin added that “even moderate alcohol use can cause cancer.”

One of the biggest problems with the findings is the reality that most people just don’t see drinking as a cancer or major health risk factor unless it’s truly out of control. To reverse the trend, ASCO suggests a number of measures to fight cancer deaths from alcohol, including by limiting sales through increased taxes and incorporating alcohol control strategies into cancer patients’ care plans.

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