• Data gathered from 10 years of research has directly linked drinking to seven types of cancer. (Getty Images)
Regardless of quantity, booze consumption is linked to at least seven types of cancer, a journal editorial states.
By
Jody Phan

22 Jul 2016 - 3:31 PM  UPDATED 14 Sep 2016 - 2:32 PM

A comprehensive analysis of data culminating from 10 years of global research has identified alcohol as the cause of 5.8 per cent of deaths from cancer in 2012 alone.

In an opinion piece published in the journal Addiction, Jenni O'Connor of the University of Otago in New Zealand, wrote that alcohol can be linked to cancer of the mouth and throat, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, bowel and breast.

“There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites, and probably others,” she said.

“Confirmation of specific biological mechanisms by which alcohol increases the incidence of each type of cancer is not required to infer that alcohol is a cause.”

Australians are advised to limit their alcohol consumption, and those who do drink are told to have no more than two standard units a day.

Connor also said that based on the evidence, the supposed health benefits of drinking — such as a glass of red wine a day being good for the heart — were “irrelevant in comparison to the increase in risk of a range of cancers.”

The findings came after analysis of data gathered over the past decade by the World Cancer Research Fund, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organisation’s cancer body, and other bodies.

According to Cancer Council Australia, 2.8% of all cancers nationwide were attributed to alcohol consumption. In light of this, Australians are advised to limit their alcohol consumption, and those who do drink are told to have no more than two standard units a day.

How much alcohol is in a standard drink? The answer varies by country
Did you know: A person living in the UK or Iceland could have two and a half drinks before they’ve even reached the “standard drink” amount in Austria?

In England, the National Health Service (NHS) warned women who had more than two standard drinks a day increase their risk of breast cancer by 16%. Those who had more than five standard drinks daily increased their risk by 40%.

Although scientists are still investigating exactly how alcohol causes cancer, they theorise that it causes damage to DNA.

"There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites, and probably others."

Susannah Brown from the World Cancer Research Fund said of the new findings, ”Many people believe that alcohol consumption is only linked to liver cancer, but this review confirms the findings of our Continuous Update Project that alcohol is strongly linked to an increased risk of a number of different cancers, including two of the most common - bowel and breast cancer.”

"For cancer prevention, we have long recommended that people should not drink alcohol at all, but we understand that this can be easier said than done."

Editor's note: This article originally incorrectly referred to O'Connor's paper as a study. This has been updated. 

Related reading
What are the risks of drinking before you know you're pregnant?
Almost 50% of Australian women consumed alcohol before they discovered they were pregnant - are there any health implications?
Researchers discover ‘holy grail’ of breast cancer prevention
Could an osteoporosis drug turn off high-risk cells before they develop into cancer?
I gave up coffee and alcohol for 15 months, and it changed the way I think about well-being
I haven’t had a single drop of alcohol or coffee in 15 months. A couple of my friends on Facebook and Twitter asked me to write about my experience, so here it is, in a nutshell.