Sipping on Danger: How Your Daily Drinks Skyrocket Family-Linked Colon Cancer Risk

Colon cancer doesn’t discriminate—it can affect anyone, but did you know that it’s more likely to develop if you have a family history? If you have a close relative who had colon cancer, your risk significantly increases, and unfortunately, consuming alcohol can exacerbate your chances even more.

According to researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, people with a family history of colorectal cancer who drank an average of 30 or more grams of alcohol per day (about 2.5 drinks) were at increased risk for colon cancer. This finding is especially alarming because it’s not excessive alcohol consumption putting you at risk, but even just a ‘moderate’ amount, which translates to a few drinks a day.

While the connection between alcohol and colon cancer risk factors has been studied in the past, this recent research has shed new light on the specific relationship between alcohol consumption, family history, and lifestyle choices. So, let’s dig a bit deeper into how and why your risk increases when you consume alcohol and what changes you can make to decrease the risk.

The Science Behind Alcohol and Colon Cancer

The big question is: how does alcohol affect our bodies to increase the risk of colon cancer? Well, when the body metabolizes alcohol, it produces a chemical called acetaldehyde, which has been shown to damage DNA and increase the risk of cancer. Additionally, alcohol consumption can lead to the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can cause cellular damage and inflammation, both of which contribute to the development of cancer.

Alcohol may also interfere with the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients such as folate, a B-vitamin that is responsible for creating new cells in the body. Low levels of folate have been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer.

Other Lifestyle Factors to Consider

If you’re concerned about your risk of colon cancer due to a family history, you should also consider your lifestyle habits, as they can further increase your risk. For instance, the study mentioned earlier found that people who smoked and ate processed meats like hot dogs were at an even higher risk for colon cancer. That’s not all; neglecting to include leafy green vegetables in your diet also contributes to an increased risk.

What Can You Do to Lower Your Risk?

While you can’t change your family history, you can make lifestyle choices to help lower your risk of colon cancer. Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Reduce alcohol consumption: As the recent study illustrated, even a few drinks a day can increase your risk. To play it safe, it’s best to minimize your alcohol intake or eliminate it altogether. If you choose to consume alcohol, it’s essential to do so in moderation. The American Cancer Society recommends no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

  2. Put out the cigarette: Quitting smoking is another actionable change you can make to lower your risk. Not only does smoking contribute to colon cancer, but it also affects various other aspects of your health.

  3. Choose healthier foods: Make an effort to incorporate more leafy green vegetables into your diet. Spinach, kale, collard greens, and Swiss chard are all excellent sources of folate, fiber, and antioxidants. At the same time, try to limit your consumption of processed meats, as they have been shown to increase colon cancer risk.

  4. Exercise regularly: Staying physically active and maintaining a healthy weight plays a crucial role in reducing your risk of colon cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week.

  5. Get screened: Finally, discuss your risks with your healthcare provider and ask about colon cancer screening options. Current guidelines recommend a colonoscopy every ten years for individuals aged 50 and over, but if you have a family history of colon cancer, you might need to start screening earlier.


To sum up, your risk of colon cancer may increase if you have a family history of the disease, but you are not powerless to take control of your health. Make conscious choices to reduce alcohol consumption, quit smoking, and adopt a healthier lifestyle with better food choices and regular exercise. Monitoring your health closely and working with your healthcare provider to identify any potential risk factors can also help you stay ahead in the fight against colon cancer.