Health Check: does alcohol cause cancer?

Health Check: does alcohol cause cancer?

Ian Olver, the Clinical Professor Oncology at Cancer Council Australia examines the cancer risk associated with drinking alcohol in his article published in 'The Conversation':

Some quotes from the above:

"One of the most interesting aspects of the International Agency for Research on Cancer's work is that, despite the baseless catchphrase “everything gives you cancer”, the evidence shows there are only a handful of proven cancer-causing agents:


the combined effects of obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity

UV radiation

alcohol consumption

viral infections such as hepatitis and human papillomavirus



industrial chemicals, many of which have been banned in countries such as Australia.



"With alcohol products, it’s the level of alcohol (and ethanol in the alcohol) that causes cancer, and most the other alcohol-related health problems."


"The risk equation in terms of alcohol exposure is straightforward: the more you consume, the higher the risk. As with most carcinogens, it’s continuous, long-term exposure that does the most damage.

To put some context around the stats, even by the most conservative estimates, more Australians die each year from an alcohol-related cancer than from melanoma.

The good news is that although alcohol is a proven cause of cancer, you can reduce your cancer risk by reducing your alcohol consumption. It’s all a matter of informed choice."


9 Replies

  • I just wish there was a fixed definite level that was safe..

    What amount can I drink, and not worry about this.?

    Sadly we are all different, and thus I expect there is no answer to my question.!

    Life is just plain hazardous and everything we do carries some risks


  • It's sensible advice that we all understand very well (though I've seen no proven evidential link between alcohol and blood cancer).

    At a human level I think we suffer the daily bombardment of guilt associated with what we eat, what we drink, the exercise we either don't or can't do and that's not withstanding the familial genetic blueprint that we seek to circumnavigate or attempt to change each day.

    And yet two of the nastiest killers (or the factors that shorten and negatively affect life) are loneliness and boredom.

    So I'm balancing the risk when I go out tonight to socialise and alleviate the enforced boredom I've had after weeks of illness. I'll take the risk because somehow I'd rather go earlier from too many drinks than loneliness and mind numbing boredom! :-)

    All a bit tongue in cheek because I wouldn't encourage anyone to drink excessively but it's all too easy to get freaked out by the never ending scientific warnings about the dangers of pleasures that somehow make life worthwhile!

    Regards to all,


  • Newdawn, I'm so glad you've decided to go out tonight... I hope you have a great evening...

    And thanks for the links. I enjoyed reading them both. It was interesting that as well as emphasising the need for people to have a few quality friends, the "Slate" article was surprisingly positive about the helpfulness of relationships formed on line.

    And I liked it that the "Psychology Today" article wasn't just warning of the health hazards of boredom and loneliness, it was positive about curiosity, and enthusiastic exploration of the world. I loved its concluding sentence "If boredom kills, then cultivating curiosity heals".

    So, that makes me feel much better about my curiosity about so many things... As long as my curiosity about CLL doesn't stress me out too much, when I can't understand stuff or keep forgetting things.


  • Try and pick a beer with a lower alcohol content !!

  • Now that would be a way to stop me drinking alcohol altogether keepfit if I had to drink ANY kind of beer! Lol

  • Don't feel too guilty. I'm 71,diagnosed at 65,have never smoked and not drunk any alcohol since l was 18,eat sensibly l hope but am a bit too fat... Born any earlier and it might have been diphtheria or polio in early childhood like my husband's elder sister aged 3. We have a lot to thank the NHS for.

  • Hi Newdawn

    Thanks for the articles, hope your night out relieved your boredom, and that you feel better for it.


  • Thanks Bub, yes it was certainly good to get out...that cabin fever can set in after a while!

    Hope everyone had an enjoyable Valentine's Day!


  • Drinking alcohol is an enjoyable pastime as it makes us less reserved and a little merry or happy. However, that said, like all things anything we enjoy should be taken in moderation and taken on occasions when appropriate and like all things, overdosing it loses it's benefit and turns against us and this applies to anything not just alcohol food, money, socialising, possessions etc.

    so as far as alcohol is concerned, the subject of this discussion, I would suggest, if it moves you, makes you happier then drink it but not everyday, it easily becomes a habit that needs more and more to achieve the same result turning against our health and when you do drink make it a treat and buy something very nice and of good quality.

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