Doctors are sounding the alarm on research showing a link between alcohol consumption and cancer. More than 700,000 new cases of cancer were linked to alcohol use in 2020 – a time when many Americans reported drinking more.
The research, published in the July 13 edition of Lancet Oncology, found that over 4% of all new cancer cases in 2020 were caused by alcohol consumption. While most alcohol-related cancers have been in people who drink more than two drinks a day, more than 100,000 cases worldwide have been in people who on average consumed less than that, according to the study.
“Alcohol is an irritant. It irritates the lining of our mouth, our throat, our stomach. As our body tries to heal, it sometimes heals in an abnormal way which can lead to the very beginnings of cancer,” said Dr David. Odell, oncologist at Northwestern Medicine.
Three quarters of alcohol-related cancers have been diagnosed in men. Most of these cases were cancers of the liver and esophagus. Breast cancer was more common in women.
“For many people who used alcohol to cope in one way or another, once the pandemic hit, their alcohol consumption increased dramatically,” said Sarah Church, a psychologist who runs a program. drug treatment facility in New York.
She said those seeking help include people who didn’t drink much before the pandemic.
There is an estimated 10-year lag between drinking alcohol and being diagnosed with alcohol-related cancer, so doctors say the impact of the pandemic is unclear.