According to research, the consumption of alcohol causes 2.8 million deaths each year. It is either through accidents or the detrimental effects on personal health, including the development of diseases such as cancer. It is a grave public health problem of alcohol that needs to get addressed as soon as possible to reduce the number of deaths due to alcohol consumption. Yet not many people seem to be aware of this grave risk to their health and well-being.
Alcohol and Cancer
Which cancers can be caused by alcohol? Our understanding of the relationship between alcohol consumption and the development of certain types of cancer has improved dramatically over the last decade or so. Even a small amount of alcohol consumed regularly can increase our risk.
There may be several mechanisms through which drink can be harmful, including damaging vital organs such as the liver and preventing the uptake of essential nutrients in the stomach. There are several alcohol-related health problems and cancer is one among them causing unretrievable damage if left unchecked for a long.
Cancers Linked with Alcohol
Alcohol consumption is one of the most important and preventable risk factors next to smoking, and it is associated with several specific types of cancer. Alcohol consumption can raise the risk of cancer in different parts of the body like
- Breast (women)
Drinking takes a heavy toll on the liver, a vital organ helpful in removing toxic waste from the body. For heavy drinkers, long-term exposure can lead to scarring of the liver, and they can have fat deposits around the organ.
It, in turn, puts an individual more at risk of developing a condition such as liver cancer.
Cancers of the Mouth, Throat, Voice Box, and Esophagus If these areas of the body are regularly in contact with any nature of alcohol, cancer risk can increase. A study in 2010 found that people who had more than four alcoholic drinks a day were almost five times as likely to get a mouth, laryngeal, or esophagus cancer compared with someone who never drank.
Smoking and drinking alcohol also tend to go hand in hand, which increases the risk even more. It is thought that drinking may help harmful chemicals in tobacco get into cells in the throat and mouth. The combination of smoking and drinking alcohol is deathlier and riskier and more likely to cause cancer than drinking or smoking alone
Colon and Rectal Cancer
Alcohol can significantly impact the stomach and other body parts, such as the colon and rectum. A 2007 study of almost half a million people; for over six years found an increase in the risk of developing bowel cancer in those who drank more.
Heavy drinking gets often accompanied by poor dietary habits that, in turn, could also impact the individual’s risk of colon or rectal cancer.
Research has shown a definite link between women developing breast cancer and their drinking habits. Exposure to drinking in early life may also increase the risk, and two studies show a connection between binge drinking and the disease.
Effects Of Body Weight on Cancer
Too much alcohol consumption tends to add calories to the diet contributing to weight gain. Being overweight increases risk of many kinds of cancers.
How Does Alcohol Increase the Risk of Cancer?
Around 6% of all cancer diagnoses can get attributed to alcohol use. The type of drink does not seem to matter here. All alcohol contains ethanol in varying amounts, and it is the quantity we drink rather than the nature of the beverage itself. We do not entirely understand how alcohol raises the risk of cancer. However, most evidence suggests it is ethanol that increases the risk and not other substances in the drink. It can be an irritant, especially for areas of the body like the colon and the throat. Alcohol causes cell damage and these cells tend to repair themselves. While doing so they can make mistakes in DNA formation, which could affect DNA changes, leading to a step toward cancer. Also, lab studies on animals have shown that inside the body, alcohol can get quickly converted into acetaldehyde, which has the potential to damage DNA.
The body breaks down the alcohol on consumption into acetaldehyde. This chemical can damage your DNA, thereby, it can prevent your body from repairing the damage. DNA is the instruction manual of any cell, and it controls the growth and function of the cell. The cell growth can go out of control when its DNA gets damaged. Usually, this can lead to the creation of a cancer tumor. It is a thinking that alcohol prevents the absorption of a few vital nutrients, such as folates. The extent to which excessive drinking can damage the liver leading to cirrhosis, is also widely known. In women, alcohol can increase estrogenic levels, which raises the risk of developing breast cancer.
Is There a Risk Even When Drinking Small Amounts?
Even small amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of developing these types of cancer. Obviously, the heavier a drinker someone is and the longer they drink has a significant impact, particularly if their behavior is associated with other unhealthy habits such as smoking and poor dietary choices. The risk increases with the increase in the amount of alcohol you drink. Reducing the amount of alcohol consumed can immensely help cut down that risk, and it’s never too late to stop. There is a risk of cancer with all kinds of alcoholic drinks like wine, both; red and white, beer, and liquor.
Guidelines for Drinking Alcohol
There is a need to follow some guidelines for drinking alcohol. If there is any confusion about this, it will get cleared by following these unwritten rules. Adults of legal drinking age should always drink in moderation, or it is still better to choose not to drink. For these people, up to two drinks for men and one drink for women are recommended. People who do not drink better not start drinking. Always drinking less alcohol is healthier and a better choice than consuming more.
Who Should Not Drink Alcohol?
- People under the legal age
- Pregnant women
- People with health issues
- While driving a vehicle
- People finding it hard to control the amount they drink
- People recovered from alcohol overuse treatment.
- People under treatment for cancer and other diseases
Many diseases and social problems, including cancer, are associated with the excessive use of alcohol. It may be possible to prevent cancer by reducing excessive alcohol use. Knowing about clinical and evidence-based community strategies can help reduce the use of alcohol excessively. And everyone should put in an effort to do so to shape a better and healthier society.