Does Alcohol Cause Esophageal Cancer?

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According to research, Esophageal cancer is the 8th most common cancer in the world and the 6th leading cause of death from cancer. Alcohol is a significant risk factor for developing cancers of the throat and esophagus due to the carcinogens found in ethanol. It was determined that the risk of esophageal cancer was even greater if alcohol was consumed daily. Unfortunately, the evidence concludes that even minimal alcohol use, as little as one drink per day, can increase the risk for specific cancers such as esophageal, gastric, and colorectal cancers.

In this article, we will discuss how alcohol contributes to cancer, who is at risk for esophageal cancer, and tips for reducing esophageal cancer risks related to alcohol.

Are you concerned about your health and alcohol use? By ending alcohol consumption, you can prioritize your health and wellness. For many diseases related to alcohol, stopping alcohol can often reverse the symptoms or end the progression of the disease. You don’t have to do this alone. Please reach out to Guardian Recovery and speak with a Treatment Advisor. Within 15 minutes, you can have a comprehensive and individualized plan created for you.

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Alcohol and Esophageal Cancer

There is evidence that alcohol can contribute to many different types of cancer. The National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services has listed alcohol as a known carcinogen for all people.

The research concludes that the more alcohol a person consistently consumes over time, the more likely someone will develop alcohol-related cancer. In 2009, 3.5% of cancer deaths were related to alcohol.

Alcohol-Related Types of Cancers: 

  • Head and neck cancers.
  • Esophageal cancer.
  • Liver cancer.
  • Breast cancer.
  • Colorectal cancer.

Unfortunately, as discussed before, any amount of alcohol increases the risk of esophageal cancer. Those who consume alcohol have a 1.3-5x greater risk of developing esophageal cancer. There is also a genetic factor that people may inherit in which they have a deficiency of an enzyme that does not metabolize alcohol which also contributes to a greater risk of cancer.

Why does alcohol lead to a greater risk of cancer? There are some hypotheses. One is that when ethanol is metabolized, a carcinogen called acetaldehyde damages DNA and proteins. Additionally, alcohol creates reactive molecules that contain oxygen and damage DNA, proteins, and lipids within the body. Alcohol is known to impair the body’s ability to absorb nutrients such as vitamins A, B complex, and vitamins C, D, and E. These deficiencies may increase one’s risk for cancer. Finally, alcohol can increase estrogen, leading to significant breast cancer risks.

Most people will not notice signs or symptoms of esophageal cancer in the beginning stages of the disease. However, it might be worth asking for an evaluation if you are at greater risk of developing alcohol-related cancer. If detected early, there may be a greater chance of positive outcomes with treatment. Here are the common signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer.

Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer: 

  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Chest pain.
  • Weight loss.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Chronic cough.
  • Vomiting.
  • Bone pain.
  • Blood in stool.

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Who Is at Risk for Esophageal Cancer?

In addition to alcohol use, the following factors may increase a person’s chance of developing esophageal cancer.

Risk Factors for Esophageal Cancer: 

  • People aged 45-70.
  • Men-3-4x greater risk vs. women.
  • Black-2x greater risk vs. white population.
  • Tobacco use.
  • Alcohol use.
  • Barret’s esophagus-This condition can develop with GERD.
  • Diet, nutrition-a diet low in fruits and vegetables.
  • Obesity.
  • Lye-children who swallow lye (often found in cleaning products).
  • Achalasia-lower ring of the esophagus does not relax during swallowing.
  • HPV.

Additional risk factors for people who may develop esophageal cancer include genetic factors, including specific enzymes that work to metabolize alcohol. Many individuals of East Asian descent are known to have these genetic predispositions and may be at a greater risk of developing certain cancers.

Tips for Reducing Esophageal Cancer Risk Related to Alcohol

Not all esophageal cancers can be prevented entirely; however, there are specific actions one can take to help prevent or reduce the risks of developing esophageal cancer related to alcohol. One of the most helpful actions is avoiding tobacco and alcohol entirely.

Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced nutritious diet can also help limit the risks of esophageal cancer. Obesity and nutritional deficiencies are known to increase the risk of developing cancers.

Finally, getting treated for GERD or Barrett’s esophagus is another essential factor in preventing esophageal cancer. For both acid reflux and Barrett’s esophagus, medication can help reduce acid reflux. It has been found that a PPI or aspirin reduces inflammation. However, there can be complications with taking aspirin, so please speak with a doctor to discuss the benefits and risks of preventative treatment.

Is it possible to prevent the risk of esophageal cancer if alcohol is stopped entirely? Research indicates that cutting out alcohol may not completely prevent esophageal cancer from occurring, but it can help reduce the severity. It may take years of ending alcohol use before the benefits may be seen. Research has shown that it could take 35 years of sobriety for some cancers to reduce risk than those who have never had alcohol before.

Medical Detoxification

If you have been diagnosed with alcohol-related cancer, such as esophageal cancer, you will need to seek medical treatment immediately to stop alcohol use. It is important that when you do decide to go through medically assisted alcohol detoxification, you seek guidance from a skilled and experienced facility. The withdrawal process from alcohol can be uncomfortable, and having a qualified medical team will only help improve your foundation for a successful recovery.

Repairing and Supporting Immunity

So what do you do if you find out you have alcohol-related cancer, such as esophageal cancer? Finding a way to repair and strengthen your immunity will help improve the odds of the best outcome with treatment. Once a person’s system is cleared of alcohol, immunity should improve.

Other Ways To Improve Your Immune System:

  • Reduce stress.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Improve sleep hygiene.
  • Maintain personal hygiene.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol use disorder or are concerned you may have health problems related to alcohol use; please contact us today. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. However, by seeking treatment now, you can improve your chances of recovery. When diagnosed with alcohol-related cancer, the best way to take care of yourself is to seek medical attention, assess the disease’s severity, and identify treatment options. A focused approach to individual treatment is critical for long-term success.

Guardian Recovery is ready to meet you where you are in your recovery journey. A free, no-obligation health insurance benefit check can be completed at your request. Please contact us today and begin your journey toward wellness.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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