Keeping Holiday Drinking in Check May Counter Cancer

Evidence suggests that heavy drinking damages cells and may raise cancer risk

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Keeping Holiday Drinking in Check May Counter Cancer

SUNDAY, Dec. 19, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Though holiday partying often includes alcohol consumption, cancer experts are urging partiers to partake moderately.

"Research shows that drinking even a small amount of alcohol increases your chances of developing cancer, including oral cancer, breast cancer and liver cancer," Clare McKindley, clinical dietician in the Cancer Prevention Center at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said in a news release from the center.

"Researchers are still trying to learn more about how alcohol links to cancer," she added. "But convincing evidence does support the fact that heavy drinking damages cells and increases the risk for cancer development."

To reduce risk, experts say, drinkers can do a number of things. First, stick to the recommended serving size. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

Women should have no more than one drink a day and men should have no more than two drinks a day, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Try to avoid high-calorie drinks. Many popular alcoholic drinks are loaded with calories, especially those mixed with soda, fruit juice or cream. A one-cup serving of eggnog, a holiday staple, has about 340 calories. Being overweight or obese is also associated with an increased risk for cancer.

Researchers believe that it is the ethanol or alcohol in beer, wine and liquor that increases cancer risk. Check the ethanol percentage numbers on bottle labels and stay away from 100-proof liquor.

Also try non-alcoholic drinks. For example, for a "cocktail-like" beverage, try club soda and lime, McKindley suggested.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about alcohol and cancer.

SOURCE: University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, news release, Dec. 13, 2010

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