Most people know that heavy alcohol drinking can cause health problems. But many people might not know that drinking alcohol can raise their cancer risk.
The less alcohol you drink, the lower the risk of cancer. No type of alcohol is better or worse than another, it is the alcohol itself that leads to the damage, regardless of whether it is in wine, beer or liquor.
Ethanol is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks. Most evidence suggests that it is the ethanol that increases the risk, not other things in the drink.
The way alcohol causes cancer isn’t completely understood. In fact, there might be several different ways it can raise risk, and this might depend on the type of cancer.
There are 5 types of cancers that are linked alcohol consumption.
- Mouth and Upper Throat: Alcohol use clearly raises the risk of these cancers. Drinking and smoking together raises the risk of these cancers far more than the effects of either drinking or smoking alone. This might be because alcohol can act as a solvent, helping harmful chemicals in tobacco to get inside the cells that line the digestive tract. Alcohol may also slow down these cells’ ability to repair damage to their DNA caused by chemicals in tobacco.
- Esophagus: Drinking alcohol also increases the risk of esophageal cancer. The chance of getting esophageal cancer goes up with more consumption of alcohol.
- Breast (in women): Even a few drinks a week is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer in women. This risk may be especially high in women who do not get enough folate (a B vitamin) in their diet or through supplements. Alcohol can affect estrogen levels in the body, which may explain some of the increased risk. Drinking less alcohol may be an important way for many women to lower their risk of breast cancer.
- Liver: Long-term alcohol use has been linked to an increased risk of liver cancer. Regular, heavy alcohol use can damage the liver, leading to inflammation. This, in turn, might raise the risk of liver cancer
- Colon: Alcohol use has been linked with a higher risk of cancers of the colon and rectum. The evidence for such a link is generally stronger in men than in women, although studies have found the link in both sexes.
Overall, the amount of alcohol consumed over time, not the type of alcoholic beverage, seems to be the most important factor in raising cancer risk.
The bottom line is limiting the amount of alcohol a person drinks or completely eliminating may help lower the risk of a number of cancers.
If you or someone you know does not know how to control the amount of alcohol consumed, it may be linked to a disease called alcoholism which could possibly lead to cancer.
Harmony Heals can help get you on the right path towards a healthy and bright future. Contact us today for more information!