Few Americans Know Alcohol Increases Colon Cancer Risk



A new study finds that few Americans know that all types of alcoholic beverages increase cancer risk, including colon cancer.

The research published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention showed many adults believe wine and even liquor have health benefits.

Alcohol contributes to at least seven types of cancer, and colon cancer is one of the leading types, along with breast cancer and mouth cancer.

“Alcohol is a leading modifiable risk factor for cancer in the United States, and previous research has shown that most Americans don’t know this,” said the study’s lead author, Andrew Seidenberg, MPH, PhD, who conducted the study during a fellowship at the National Cancer Institute.

According to Dr. Sidenberg, alcohol contributed to more than 75,000 cases of cancer and 19,000 cancer deaths per year between 2013 and 2016.

Americans Lack Awareness of Alcohol’s Link to Cancer

Dr. Seidenberg and his research team analyzed survey responses from a 2020 study of almost 4,000 adults. Participants answered the following question: “In your opinion, how much does drinking the following types of alcohol affect the risk for getting cancer?” The study recorded responses for beer, wine and liquor.

Some of the findings included the following:

  • Less than half of Americans are aware that alcohol affects cancer risk.
  • 31.2 percent of Americans were aware that liquor increased cancer risk, followed by beer (24.9 percent) and then wine (20.3 percent).
  • Ten percent of American adults thought wine decreased cancer risk, while 2.2 percent thought beer reduced cancer risk and 1.7 percent thought liquor reduced cancer risk.

The study found older adults had lower awareness than younger adults that alcohol use can cause cancer. Dr. Seidenberg believes this disparity may be due to long-standing drinking habits in the older generation.

How Can I Prevent Colon Cancer?

All alcoholic beverages are linked to cancer. The more you drink, the higher your risk for colon and other types of cancer. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest men drink no more than two drinks per day and women drink no more than one drink per day.

The most effective way to prevent colon cancer is to schedule routine colon cancer screenings. Colonoscopy is the preferred method because your doctor can view the entire colon and remove abnormal tissue, called polyps, during the exam. If left intact, polyps may develop into cancer.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests adults at average risk for colon cancer should begin screening at age 45. However, you should get screened earlier if you have a family or personal history of colon cancer or colon polyps. You may also require evaluation for possible colon cancer if you have digestive symptoms.

Locate a Gastroenterologist Near You

Are you up-to-date with your colon cancer screening? Have you ever had a colonoscopy? The first step is to call your doctor. If you are looking for a fellowship-trained gastroenterologist, we can help. Our colon cancer screening centers are located across the country, and our physicians are accepting new patients. Call today to make an appointment.