Drinking Alcohol, Even Moderately, Can Increase Risk Of Several Cancers

Drinking Alcohol, Even Moderately, Can Increase Risk Of Several Cancers

A study recently published in the journal Addiction found that drinking alcohol, even in moderate amounts, increases your risk for several types of cancer.

The news comes after an entire decade of research. The cancers in question attack the larynx (throat), oropharynx (mouth), esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and breast.

Researchers have known for some time that heavy drinking contributes to cancer, as well as a variety of diseases. However, this study indicates that consuming much less can still make some cancers more likely.

alcohol-21723_1280The study found that consumption of 2.5 beers, or 3 glasses of wine per day increases the risk of oropharynx, larynx, and esophagus cancer.

Moreover, an increase of 4%-7% over those who do not consume alcohol.

In addition, drinking alcohol at this level also increases the risk of liver, color, rectum, and breast cancer by 1.5% - although this risk is fairly low.

Scientists thus estimate that cancers at these sites attributed to drinking alcohol are associated with up to 5.8% of cancer-related deaths globally. In addition, alcohol is thought to have caused about 500,000 cancer-related deaths worldwide in 2012.

Other statistics (based on 2009 data) released by the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services show that an estimated 3.5% of all cancer deaths (nearly 20,000) in the U.S. alone were related to alcohol.

Why The Correlation?

Scientists aren't entirely certain how alcohol contributes to cancer. However, it is believe that acetaldehyde, a chemical and carcinogen which forms during alcohol breakdown, does damage to DNA cells in certain organs.

Also, alcohol consumption contributes to the generation of reactive oxygen species (molecules which contain oxygen) can damage DNA, proteins, and fats via oxidation.

vitaminsAlcohol can also impair the body's ability to break down and absorb nutrients associated with cancer risk.

These include vitamin A, B vitamins such as folate, vitamin C, vitamin D, and Vitamin E.

Alcohol can also increase estrogen in the blood. This hormone is linked to breast cancer risk.

And finally, alcoholic beverages in general contain a variety of toxic contaminants which are added during the fermentation and production process. These include nitrosamines, asbestos fibers, phenois, and hydrocarbons.

About Alcohol-Related Cancers & Prognoses

Larynx

Larynx is grouped into early, intermediate, and advanced disease groups. Fortunately, early larynx cancer is quite curable, with 5-year survival rates of 80-95%, compared to advanced stages that have fairly low 5-year survival rates of 25-50%.

Oropharynx

Oropharyngeal cancer has a survival rate of 5 years for about 40% of men and women after diagnosis.

Lip cancer has a 90% 5-year survival rate. Tongue cancer has about a 50% 5-year survival rate.

Oral cavity cancers (other than lips or tongue) also have about a 50% 5-year survival rate.

Esophagus

digestion-303364_640Esophagus cancer stages include localized (only esophagus), regional (has spread to lymph nodes), and distant (has spread to other organs.)

The 5-year survival rate of those with localized cancer is about 40%. For those with regional cancer, it drops to 22%. For those in the distant stage, the survival rate plummets to only 4%.

Liver

Like esophageal cancer, liver cancer is categorized in 3 stages, localized, regional, and distant. The survival rates for these stages are 30%, 11%, and 3%, respectively.

Colon & Rectum

5-year survival for Stage I colorectal cancer is about 93%. Survival for Stage II is between 63-87%. Stage III cancer prognosis ranges between 44-83%, with chemotherapy improving prognosis for Stage III cancer.

Also, colon cancers that have spread to other parts of the body (metastatic) are often harder to treat and tend to have a poorer outlook. Stage IV colon cancers have a 5-year relative survival rate of only about 11%.

Breast

Localized breast cancer cells have an excellent 5-year survival rate of 99%. Regionalized breast cancer (spread to nearby lymph nodes) have a survival rate of around 84%. Distant breast cancer (spread to other organs) have a 5-year survival rate of about 26%.

Cancers Not Linked to Drinking Alcohol

Many studies have analyzed the relationship between drinking alcohol and the risk of other cancers. No conclusive, consistent link has been found for the following cancers: bladder, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, stomach, and uterine.

Smoking

smoke-1041914_1280Also, if you drink and smoke cigarettes or cigars, it should come as no surprise that the addition of tobacco isn't doing you any favors.

Drinking alcohol and smoking significantly increases cancer risk to the mouth, pharyx, and larynx.

Moreover, this effect is more than just the combination of two toxic substances - alcohol consumption creates a pathway which allows carcinogens to penetrate the mucous membrane, as well as the respiratory and upper GI tract.

Commentary

If you drink and/or smoke, however, you can decrease your risk by cutting back or quitting as soon as possible. Reversing damage done is certainly possible, but you need to provide your body with an opportunity to heal itself.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

Primary Sources:

Related: Self-Control Characteristics Linked to College Binge Drinking

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