This chapter begins by summarizing current understanding of the mechanisms by which alcohol might affect cancer risk and then evaluates the molecular genetic factors that appear relevant to alcohol metabolism and hence the impact of alcohol on cancer risk. It briefly reviews the means by which alcohol's effects can be studied and their limitations. The role of alcohol in cancer at major cancer sites is then used to gauge the likely importance of alcohol to cancer risk and prevention. These sites are either ones for which there is a substantial literature linking alcohol to risk, or they are associated with significant morbidity and mortality.
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