FAQ: Alcohol and Your Health
Experts answer questions about the impact of drinking on cancer risk, heart health, and more.
Are some risks and benefits of alcohol different for women than for men?
Research suggests there is a gender gap when it comes to drinking alcohol
and health risks, but experts tend to disagree on the extent of it. For
instance, Klatsky says, "even light to moderate drinking is associated with
female breast cancer. [But] for men we could say light to moderate drinking in
all likelihood is not related to risk of cancer. It's not protective but it
won't increase risk.''
That may be generally true, Rogg says, but other individual factors, such as
living in an area where pollutants are at a high level, may boost cancer
Besides heart health and cancer risk, are there any other established links between alcohol and health?
Yes, especially with heavy drinking. Heavy drinking and cirrhosis of the
liver are linked, Klatsky points out. Excess alcohol can also cause what
Klatsky calls "cirrhosis of the heart,'' a type of heart muscle damage. Too
much alcohol can trigger high blood
pressure and lead to strokes and heart rhythm disturbances, too, he
Drinking regularly may contribute to a weight problem or cause one. "Alcohol is an appetite
stimulant," says Ravi Dave, MD, a cardiologist at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical
Center and Orthopaedic Hospital and associate clinical professor of medicine at
the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine. "You
tend to eat more."
On the plus side, drinking alcohol moderately seems to protect against dementia, Klatsky says, and type 2 diabetes.