Does Drinking Cause Cancer?
Just about everyone – even heavy drinkers – know that drinking isn’t good for you. From the empty calories that lead to the dreaded “beer gut” to the poor decision-making that alcohol causes in the long term, it’s safe to say anyone drinking isn’t thinking about the long term. However, once they truly understand the risks of binge drinking and long-term abuse, their mind may change.
“Does drinking cause cancer?” – just the possibility that there’s a link should be enough to encourage quitting given how terrible the disease is. Many are aware of the toll that drinking takes on the liver, but liver damage doesn’t strike the same fear or convey severity as cancer.
Getting and staying sober is very challenging, but with the right support network and tools, it's completely attainable.
Potential Links Between Drinking & Certain Cancers
Due to the complexity of the gene mutations that cause cancer, it’s not often easy to directly link a single cause to the formation of cancer. However, anything that leads to poor overall health (such as alcoholism) weakens the body’s ability to regulate toxins, chemicals, hormones, and other contributors to gene mutation occurring. This – in addition to the way alcohol is consumed and processed by the body – has allowed researchers to identify the cancers that alcoholism is most likely to lead to.
After consumed, alcohol sits in your bloodstream until it can be processed by your liver – which is capable of filtering about 1 ounce of alcohol per hour. When drinking heavily over a longer period of time, the liver becomes overworked and can be damaged. This leads to inflammation and scarring that degrades the liver’s ability to process the toxic ethanol from the alcohol, slowing the processing down and leading to more toxic exposure for the liver. Over time, the exposure can lead to gene mutations and eventually cancer.
If the damage sustained is not too severe and cancer has not formed yet, abstinence from drinking can allow your liver to repair itself so that it can better process toxins and lower the chances of cancer forming.
Mouth, Throat & Esophagus Cancer
Most of the time, alcohol is consumed orally through a drink. As you can assume, this means that the alcohol reaches the mouth, throat, and esophagus before reaching the stomach. As each of these parts are exposed to the alcohol, the mucus coating is dried out and broken down by the ethanol in the alcohol. This makes them susceptible to carcinogens like acetaldehyde that result from ethanol in alcohol being broken down. This toxic chemical can damage DNA, lead to gene mutations, and potentially cancer in the upper digestive system.
Alcohol use is especially dangerous when combined with tobacco use due to the alcohol drying out the protective lining of each part, allowing the carcinogens in the cigarette or other smoking device to permeate the lining and damage the cells. It is estimated that this leads to around a 33% higher risk of oral cancers developing.
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In addition to being susceptible to damage by carcinogens like acetaldehyde, breasts are especially at risk for developing cancer as a result of drinking. According to breastcancer.org, women who drink 3 drinks per week have a 15% higher chance of developing breast cancer than those who don’t drink – and the number only goes up when you drink more. This is believed to be a result of women’s hormone levels being unbalanced due to your liver prioritizing the removal of the toxic acetaldehyde from your blood stream rather than regulating your estrogen levels appropriately. Higher estrogen levels in your blood over a long period of time (such as from long term alcohol abuse) greatly increases your odds of developing breast cancer.
Fortunately, with abstinence your liver can catch back up so that your levels balance out and lower your risk of cancer.
Colon & Rectal Cancers
When it comes to colorectal cancer, the carcinogen acetaldehyde is again the main culprit in increasing the risk of cancer. Polyps (tumorous growths) can form in your colon as a result of the DNA mutation that occurs, and the more you drink the more time there is for polyps to form. While many of these begin benign, extended exposure to toxic chemicals increases the odds of DNA damage occurring and the polyps becoming cancerous.
Lower Your Cancer Risk with Alcohol Addiction Services
Does drinking cause cancer? Unfortunately, the short answer is yes, it can.
Permitting you haven’t already developed cancer as a result of alcohol abuse (and in some cases even if you have), there’s still hope. The best way to lower your risk is to quit drinking. With abstinence, your body can better regulate and filter the toxins that pose a threat to your DNA and cells. This way, you stand a better chance of filtering out and resisting any toxic chemicals you may come across.
Unfortunately, alcohol addiction recovery can be both very difficult and incredibly dangerous to do alone, making it important that you have professionals to help you through detoxification, withdrawals, and ongoing care. At SpringBoard Recovery, you can ensure that you’re going to be entirely safe and as comfortable as possible through the whole process. As a leading drug and alcohol treatment facility, they’ve got the caring staff and medical equipment necessary to put you on the road to recovery safely and effectively. By following their holistic, 12-step based program you can take your health back into your own hands so that you can live cancer and alcohol-free.
- WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-truth-about-beer-and-your-belly#1
- American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/diet-physical-activity/alcohol-use-and-cancer.html
- MedlinePlus: https://medlineplus.gov/alcoholusedisorderaud.html
- WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/cancer/understanding-liver-cancer-basic-information
- American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/about/what-is-liver-cancer.html
- National Library of Medicine: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Acetaldehyde
- Gastroenterology: https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(03)01138-7/fulltext
- Drinkaware: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/alcohol-related-diseases/alcohol-and-cancer
- Breastcancer.org: https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/alcohol
- StopColonCancerNow.com: https://www.stopcoloncancernow.com/buttseriously/prevention-info/alcohol-increases-risk-of-colon-polyps-colon-cancer