The Link Between Alcohol Abuse and Cancer Risk

drink4Cancer is a disease that spells fear: the fear of survival, the fear of suffering, the fear of complex treatments and the fear of drastic changes in life after the disease. Despite years of research, the exact cause of this disease remains unknown. We know that there are many types of cancer, that early detection can help cure a person completely, the various types of treatments, and the various risk factors for cancer, but we still don’t know what spurs the beginning of cancer.

Alcohol and Cancer

In such a scenario, it makes sense to avoid risk factors for cancer, which range from faulty genes to lifestyle to obesity to smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. In the strictest research terms, the amount of alcohol depends not just on the volume, but also the alcohol content in a drink. Different drinks consist of different amounts of alcohol.

Alcohol is known to increase the risk of various cancers, namely, the cancers of esophagus, larynx, pharynx and mouth. The risk is proportionate to the amount of alcohol consumed. The findings from a review lay down that people who consumed about four or more drinks everyday were at a risk of getting cancers of mouth and pharynx five times more than those who never consumed alcohol or did so only occasionally. Also, even those people, who consumed as much as a single drink every day, had a risk 20% higher than those who never drank.

breast-3In women, alcohol can be linked to breast cancer. Even the smallest amount of alcohol can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. In 2012, it was reviewed from some evidence that consuming a drink everyday could up a woman’s breast cancer risk by 5%.

Alcohol can also cause liver cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to cirrhosis, which causes damage to the liver and build-up of scar tissues in the liver, and may ultimately lead to liver cancer. People with hepatitis B or C belong to the high risk group who can get liver cancer. They should avoid alcohol completely, as the smallest amount of alcohol is enough to damage their livers.

Bowel cancer is another cancer that has been linked to alcohol, according to studies. Men are found to be more affected than women in this case. Heavy drinkers are at more risk, though even small amounts can affect a person’s chances of getting bowel cancer.

How Alcohol Causes Cancer

914335___dna__Alcohol contributes to development of many cancers, but in different ways. One of the strongest theories about how alcohol causes cancer is related to the processing of alcohol in the body after a person consumes it. Alcohol gets converted into acetaldehyde, a chemical which can damage a person’s DNA and even prevent its repair. Alcohol consumption increases the acetaldehyde content in saliva. A small study conducted in 2012 showed that the level of DNA damage was very high in the mouth cells of those who consumed alcohol.

Hormones like estrogen could go to abnormally high levels with excessive alcohol consumption and lead to breast cancer. Similarly, repeated damage to the liver cells because of alcohol abuse can cause liver cancer.

Tobacco has many chemicals that cause cancer. If a person smokes as well as drinks, alcohol hastens the process of absorption of these chemicals in the mouth or throat. This leads to cancer of mouth or throat.

What Experts Say

The International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC) is a part of World Health Organization. Since 1988, IARC has classified alcohol as a carcinogen of the highest risk category, Group 1.The rulings of IARC are considered as the benchmark for determining something as a substance that comes with the potential risk of cancer. This definitely means that there is sufficient evidence that alcohol is a cancer-causing substance.

Cancer Expert reports go to the extent of suggesting that there is no lower limit of alcohol consumption that can be considered safe where the risk of cancer is concerned.