In a recent position paper, the highly respected American Society of Clinical Oncology highlighted several troubling links between alcohol consumption and cancer risk. The ASCO, an organization of oncologists from across the nation, urged listeners to stay aware of their alcohol consumption and the damage it can do to their bodies.
What Are The Risks?
In a recent study commissioned by the ASCO, researchers found that 70 percent of all Americans do not realize that frequent alcohol consumption can heighten your risk of developing cancer. As researchers and doctors have known for years, alcohol is a key risk factor for cancers of the head and neck, liver, esophagus, breast, and colon. People who have had a form of cancer in the past should also watch their alcohol consumption since they are already at an increased risk of recurrence.
Alcohol has been classified as a cancer-causing carcinogen by the International Agency for Cancer Research and National Cancer Institute for decades. The more alcohol a person drinks, and the longer they drink regularly, the higher their risk. But the report also warns that even low and moderate alcohol consumption (between one and two drinks a day) may still increase cancer risk significantly.
Neck and oral cancers are by far the most heavily impacted by alcohol since those areas of the body come into direct contact with the carcinogens in alcohol. Since men and women metabolize alcohol differently, their levels of risk vary widely. Women who drink occasionally have a four percent higher risk of breast cancer than women who do not drink at all, while heavy drinkers are 23 percent more likely to develop the disease later in life. Alcohol also causes serious problems when recovering from cancer or other illnesses, making it more difficult to recover and more dangerous to undergo surgery.
How Does Alcohol Damage The Body?
Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the States—which adds up to around 19,500 cases—can be traced back to alcohol. While researchers have not pinned down exactly how alcohol contributes to cancer risk, there are several potential causes:
- As the body metabolizes the ethanol in alcoholic drinks it creates the toxin acetaldehyde, which can damage proteins and DNA
- Alcohol generates reactive oxygen species, which can oxidize delicate DNA, proteins, and lipids through oxidation
- Alcohol also hinders the body’s natural ability to absorb the nutrients that protect against cancer, include vitamins A, B, C, D, and E
- In women, alcohol can increase blood levels of estrogen, which increases the risk of breast cancer
Alcohol consumption is a serious cancer risk, and heavy drinkers are in the most danger. If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol addiction, help is available. Contact CARUS Recovery at 877-225-7774 to learn more about our drug and alcohol rehab center in Los Angeles.