Drinking alcohol linked to cancer says American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)

Cancer specialists and researchers from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), released a statement this week, that drinking alcohol is linked with cancer. Their statement was published titled, “Alcohol and Cancer: A Statement of the American Society of Clinical Oncology”, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The aim of the statement was to improve public education and awareness regarding alcohol abuse and some cancers. It would also support the policy efforts to reduce the risk of cancers through evidence based science. The statement would also target cancer patients to warn them of relapses with continued alcohol use and support and identify where more research could help establish and look in-depth into this connection.

The statement explains the connection between alcohol consumption and at least seven different types of cancers. The common cancers that are associated with alcohol consumption according to the statement include those of head and neck, throat, esophagus, mouth, breast, liver and colon. They write that at least 5.5 percent cancers have been found to be associated with alcohol consumption. The authors state that this is not a new or surprising finding but this is the first official statement from ASCO that correlates the two conditions – alcohol consumption and cancers.

Corresponding author of the statement and University of Wisconsin oncologist Noelle LoConte said that this statement not only aims at letting general public and cancer patients know of the risks associated with alcohol consumption but also educate doctors and treating physicians so that they can adequately educate their patients. LoConte adds that this was, “an opportunity for us to raise awareness.”

She said more research should be conducted in this area that could not only assess the relationship between these two conditions but also see if alcohol use could lead to recurrence of cancers among cancer patients who are in remission. The statement also talks about the “formative” role that alcohol plays in patients who are beginning to develop a cancer unbeknownst to them.

She adds that the myth that moderate alcohol consumption is good for the heart is also busted. There are studies that show that the abstainers could be having other conditions for which they did not consume alcohol, making the alcohol consumers appear healthier.

ASCO, in the statement calls for public health strategies that could advise people to abstain more and warn them about the risks associated with alcohol consumption. Some of the strategies that could be adopted include reducing the number of liquor stores, pubs and bars in a particular area, raising taxes and prices of alcoholic beverages, improving underage drinking laws to prevent youngsters from drinking legally etc. All patients visiting the doctor need screening for alcohol consumption they write. LoConte says this statement wants to put across a simple message, “Drinking in moderation is fine, but if you don’t drink, don’t start.

ASCO President Bruce Johnson, MD, FASCO added, “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.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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