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Cancer Prevention: Alcohol & Smoking

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

Written by: Dr. Sarah Soles, Naturopathic Doctor, FABNO

Cancer prevention is a topic that is not addressed frequently enough, particularly because cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and nearly half of all Canadians will develop cancer during their lifetime. Most cancers are however attributed to diet and lifestyle factors, so there is a lot that you can do to minimize your risk! Some of the first items that should be addressed are consumption of alcohol and exposure to cigarette smoke.


The story of alcohol and cancer risk is an interesting one. Alcohol is believed to increase cancer risk through a variety of mechanisms. The breakdown of ethanol produces acetaldehyde, a probable carcinogen that can damage DNA. DNA damage can also occur through oxidation because alcohol increased the generation of reactive oxygen species in the body. Furthermore, alcohol can impair the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients that are associated with minimizing cancer risk, such as vitamins C, A, D, E, and multiple B vitamins. Alcohol consumption can also increase estrogen levels, which may in part be why it increases the risk of breast cancer.