Drugs That Cause Cancer

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on February 13, 2020.

This Cancer Prevention Month, let's find ways to protect ourselves from cancer risks. While you may know about the general negative effects of addiction, did you know that it can also contribute to cancer? Certain drugs and addiction-related health problems may increase your risk of the disease. Learn more about cancer and drug addiction below.

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Can Heroin Cause Liver Cancer?

Research suggests that heroin may cause liver damage that contributes to liver cancer. This damage can become worse when the person also uses alcohol or another drug. Liver damage can result in conditions like cirrhosis that act as major risk factors for liver cancer.

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What Cancer Risks Does Alcohol Cause?

Alcohol use causes numerous risks for cancer, as supported by years of evidence. The types of cancer related to alcohol use include:

  • Head and neck cancer: Alcohol raises a person's risk of oral cavity, throat and larynx (voice box) cancers.
  • Esophageal cancer: Using alcohol also increases your risk of a cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, especially if you have a certain enzyme deficiency.
  • Liver cancer: Heavy alcohol use leads to a higher risk of two types of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.
  • Breast cancer: Alcohol raises the risk of breast cancer, even in individuals who never smoke.
  • Colorectal cancer: Finally, alcohol increases a person's risk of cancers in the colon and rectum

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Do Steroids Cause Cancer?

Steroid misuse can disrupt the body's natural hormone production, increasing the risk of testicular cancer. This cancer risk rises further when someone also takes an insulin-like growth factor hormone.

What Other Links Exist Between Cancer and Drug Addiction?

Substance use can also make a person more likely to have increased cancer risk due to related factors. Drug addiction can contribute to these risk factors for cancer:


Injected drugs like cocaine and opioids increase a person's risk of hepatitis B and hepatitis C. While hepatitis B tends to cause acute issues, hepatitis C has a link to chronic liver infections. These hepatitis C-related infections leave a person more susceptible to liver damage. As we discussed previously, damage to the liver can raise a person's risk of liver cancer.

Cutting Agents

Some illicit drugs include additives known as cutting agents, which can cause cancer. Cutting agents include a wide variety of substances, but phenacetin produces some of the biggest cancer risks. This painkiller has a link to renal, pelvis and ureter cancer.

Difficulty With Self-Care

Addiction can make it difficult to take care of oneself and follow treatment directions. As a result, a person who misuses substances can increase their risk of cancer through decreased self-care. They can also miss out on opportunities to detect cancer early, when it has a higher chance of successful treatment.

How Can You Get Help With Drug Addiction to Improve Your Health?

If you have an addiction, there are many places where you can seek help. At Diamond House Detox, we support clients in Sacramento, CA, as they recover from substance abuse. We specialize in co-occurring disorders, the combination of mental illness and substance abuse. As our client, you'll receive comprehensive treatment in a comfortable setting. 

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Our team is available 24/7 to speak with you or coordinate same-day admittance. Call us at (800) 205-6107 or contact us online for confidential help.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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