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Alcohol and Cancer

Alcoholic beverages, along with cigarette smoking and use of chewing tobacco, cause cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and larynx.

Cancer risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed and may start to rise with intake of as few as two drinks per day.

A drink is defined as 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Mouth and esophageal cancers are much more common in countries where alcohol consumption is high. The combined use of tobacco and alcohol leads to greatly increased risk of oral and esophageal cancers.

Studies also have noted an association between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of breast cancer. The exact mechanism for this effect is unknown, but the association may be due to carcinogenic actions of alcohol or its metabolites.

Studies suggest that the risk of breast cancer may increase with an intake of just a few drinks per week.

I advise to limit intake to two drinks a day for men, and one drink per day for women. Women generally tolerate alcohol less well than men as a result of smaller body size and greater ability to absorb alcohol. Women with an unusually high risk for breast cancer might reasonably consider abstaining from alcohol.