Healthy Living

Understanding the Connection between Alcohol and Cancer

assorted alcohol bottles on a bar’s shelf

Alcoholic beverages like wines, beers, distilled spirits (liquor), malt liquor, and hard cider, contains ethanol (ethyl alcohol). Alcohol is the term used for the chemical substance ethanol. It is manufactured by the fermentation of starch (by yeast) and sugar. As per accordance with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in the United States, a standard alcoholic beverage carries 0.6 ounces (14 grams) of pure alcohol.

When you consume alcohol, your body breaks down ethanol into a chemical known as acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde harms the DNA and inhibits your body from repairing the harm. DNA is the instructional manual of the cell that controls the typical development and functioning of the cell. When DNA is harmed, the cells start developing out of control and result in the creation of a cancer tumor.

Drinking moderate or even light quantity of alcohol can increase the chances of several types of cancers. In a report of Alcoholic Beverage Consumption, the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services used the word human carcinogen for the consumption of alcoholic drinks. Alcohol consumption can lead to the risk of developing six types of cancers, including liver, esophagus, breast (in women), voice box, mouth and throat, and colon and rectum cancer.

According to a study, even individuals with a habit of light drinking (not having more than one drink daily) have the possibility of developing cancer. With the increased quantity of alcohol, the chances of cancer development also increase. Binge to moderate drinkers, all are at danger.

According to research conducted between the period of 2003-2009, binge drinking can cause breast cancer in women. A sample of breast cancer-free women, who were between the ages of 35-74 years, were taken for the study. The findings proved the relation between binge drinking and breast cancer. Those who were light drinkers had a lower risk of cancer than the moderate and binge drinkers.

A 2015 study, consisted of 16 articles, was conducted to investigate the relationship between cancer and alcohol, along with carcinogen mechanisms. Increased consumption of alcohol leads to increased risk of cancer (alcohol consumption is the etiological factor of cancer).  As compared to human cancer-models, the research on animal cancer-model is vast.

Plain patterns have developed between alcohol utilization and the growth of the following kinds of cancers:

Liver Cancer

Heavy alcohol utilization is related to around 2-fold expanded risks of liver cancer. The liver cancers caused by alcohol are intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatocellular carcinoma.

Breast Cancer

It has been reliably found from epidemiologic studies that with an expanded consumption of alcohol, the risks of breast cancer also increase. Pooled information from 118 individual studies shows that, as compared to the non-alcohol consumers, the light alcohol consumers have a somewhat expanded (1.04-fold higher) chance of breast cancer. The hazard increment is more prominent in moderate alcohol consumers (1.23-fold higher) and heavy alcohol consumers (1.6-fold higher).

An investigation of prospective information for 88,000 females, taking part in two US cohort studies, concluded that for the females who are non-smokers, light to moderate alcohol intake was related with 1.13-fold expanded possibilities of developing alcohol-related cancer (mainly breast cancer).

Head and Neck Cancer

Moderate to binge intake of alcohol is associated with the higher possibilities of developing head and neck cancers. As compared to the non-drinkers, the moderate alcohol consumers have 1.4-fold higher chances of larynx cancer and 1.8-fold higher chances of the pharynx and oral cavity (excluding lips) cancer. The heavy alcohol consumers have 2.6 -fold higher chances of larynx cancer, and 5-fold higher chances of the pharynx and oral cavity cancers.

Colorectal Cancer

There is a strong indication of the link between alcohol consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer. As compared to the non-alcoholic consumers, moderate to heavy utilization of alcohol is related to 1.2 to 1.5-fold expanded risks of colon and rectum cancers.

Esophageal cancer

Alcohol intake (no matter light or heavy) is directly linked with a higher risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (a type of esophageal cancer). As compared to the non-drinkers, the risk of esophageal cancer ranges from 1.3-fold higher for light alcohol consumption to nearly 5-fold higher for heavy alcohol consumption.

Final Verdict

There is a substantial connection between alcohol and cancer. The alcohol consumption of any level is linked with the risk of developing several types of cancers. The more you drink, the more you will be at risk of having cancer. Therefore, you should avoid drinking alcohol if you are worried about your health. Not only cancer, but the high consumption of alcohol is also linked with several other diseases.

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