Cancer and Alcohol

Which cancers are related to alcohol usage?

The more alcohol one drinks, the higher their risk of cancer. Alcohol intake directly correlates with cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and breast. It is likely that alcohol intake also increases one’s likelihood of developing stomach cancer.

How does alcohol increase one’s cancer risk?

There are several ways in which alcohol can increase one’s risk of cancer. Most notable, perhaps, is that the ethanol in alcoholic drinks breaks down into a known carcinogen. This compound damages DNA and can even stop cells from repairing the damage. Preventing cell repair allows space for cancerous cells to grow and proliferate.

Alcohol can also affect levels of hormones like estrogen, which directs cells to grow and divide. While some cell growth and division are necessary, these hormones do so at too rapid a pace. The more cells divide, the more chances there are for something to go wrong and for cancer to develop. Further, alcohol makes the body less able to break down and absorb several important nutrients such as vitamins A, C, D, E, and folate. These nutrients help protect the body against cancer.

Isn’t a glass of wine good for health?

There is conflicting evidence regarding the health benefits of a glass of wine. While some research suggests it is good for the heart, cancer experts ascertain that no amount of alcohol supports cancer prevention. The American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that no person start consuming alcohol for the assumed health benefits. However, the national dietary guidelines state that women should have no more than one drink per day and men no more than two.

What should cancer patients know about alcohol?

Alcohol should never mix with medication, and that includes cancer medication. Alcohol can increase the side effects associated with cancer, including nausea, dehydration, and mouth sores. If patients have specific concerns or questions regarding their alcohol intake, they should speak to their doctor.

Are there other effects of drinking alcohol?

Alcohol has many short-term and long-term impacts on health. Short-term impacts include effects on mood, concentration, coordination, and judgment. Longer-term impacts can include weight gain (which is also a cancer risk factor), addiction, hepatitis, and cirrhosis. In pregnant women, alcohol use can lead to birth defects or other issues with the fetus.

Reducing or ceasing alcohol use is an important way to reduce one’s risk of cancer. However, there are many additional ways one can live a cancer-free lifestyle.