Alcohol Consumption Can Directly Cause Cancer

Heavy alcohol consumption is often associated with poor diet, smoking, and lack of exercise, all factors known to increase cancer risk. That is the reason why some have suggested that these factors mostly account for any correlation between alcohol consumption and cancer.

A new study from China looked at the genetic data from 150,000 Chinese subjects. The cohort completed surveys outlining their drinking habits, and their general health records were followed for over a decade. The researchers also evaluated subjective drinking habits and confirmed that some subjects with low-alcohol-tolerability genes consumed significantly less alcohol than those without the gene variants. 

The findings linked mainly esophageal and head and neck cancers with alcohol consumption. The study focused on these gene variants known to be associated with lower levels of alcohol consumption. 

There are 2 common genetic variants that can affect a person’s tolerance to alcohol. One of the variants causes a decrease in a person’s ability to breakdown acetaldehyde, which is a toxic molecule produced when the body metabolizes alcohol.

According to the study, subjects with one or two copies of either variant were found to have between 13 and 31% lower risk of cancer, and cancers previously linked to alcohol consumption were detected at higher rates in those drinking more alcohol.

The research also found that those with one copy of the gene who still drank alcohol had a higher rate of cancers, which could indicate that the inability to metabolize acetaldehyde alone can be a risk factor for cancer development. 

The research increases the evidence linking alcohol with increased cancer risk alone, without other risk factors added.


Rich Haridy. (2022, Jan 20). Alcohol consumption can directly cause cancer, new genetic study finds. New Atlas, Health & Wellbeing. Retrieved from:

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