Drugs and the Risk of Cancer in Women

Did you know that alcohol use can cause cancer? And that women are much more susceptible to the damaging effects of alcohol than men? Below are some facts and statistics about drug and alcohol abuse and their links to cancer, especially in women.


–    Heavy alcohol use is defined as having more than 4 drinks a day or 14 drinks a week for men, and more than 3 drinks a day or 7 drinks per week for women. Men can tolerate more alcohol than women because women carry more body fat and less water, meaning alcohol affects them more strongly and takes a longer time to be processed in the body.

–    Risk of cancer from alcohol use increases both with higher amounts of alcohol consumed, and duration of time alcohol is abused.

–    The National Cancer Institute estimates that 3.5% of all cancer deaths are caused by alcohol abuse.

–    Alcohol abuse dramatically increases the risk of many types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, voice box, throat, breast, esophagus, liver, pancreas, colon, and rectum.

–    The risk of the different types of cancer is not equal to each other. For example, five drinks a day increases the risk of oral, throat and esophageal cancers by over 100%. Two drinks a day increases the chance of bowel cancer by between 10% and 20%, and one drink a day increases the chance of breast cancer by 7%.

–    Alcohol increases the levels of estrogen in the body, which may increase the risk of breast cancer.

–    When combined with alcohol, tobacco exponentially increases the risk of cancer, especially in the mouth, throat, and esophagus.  Alcohol works as a solvent that allows harmful toxins like tobacco smoke to enter cells more easily.

–    Street drugs like heroin and cocaine are often mixed with cancerous additives. The drug phenacetin is a highly carcinogenic, white powdery substance that used to be used as a painkiller in the United States. It is directly linked to various cancers and is one of the agents often used to cut street drugs.

–    Any drugs that are injected, such as heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine, involve the use of needles and therefore increase the risk of exposure to HIV and Hepatitis C.

–    There is a sad cyclical link between drug abusers and cancer, as addictive pain medicine is often prescribed to treat cancer symptoms. An addict can give themselves cancer through drug abuse, and then be prescribed the very drugs that got them in this situation to help ease the pain of cancer.