Alcohol Consumption Could Increase Risk for Certain Types of Cancer
Many are aware of the laundry list of health risks that go alone with heavy alcohol consumption. What they may not be aware of is the fact that cancer is also on that list. Alcohol can lead to accidents which cause injury as well as long-lasting health problems. Weight gain is a common problem, as is a rise in blood pressure, the potential for birth defects, liver damage and the potential for alcohol addiction. It has been known for some time that alcohol is linked to cancer, but new research shows how the breakdown of alcohol in the body, may actually produce a deadly carcinogen.
Alcohol is connected to cancers in several areas of the body and the risk of those cancers is directly proportionate to the amount of alcohol a person imbibes. Cancers of the throat, mouth, esophagus, and larynx are possible. It seems obvious that alcohol would directly affect the health of these areas. When a person drinks alcohol, the cells in their mouth, throat and voice box become irritated. This irritation makes it much more likely that cancer will develop. When a person smokes, the likelihood of cancer forming is even greater. This could be because alcohol inhibits the ability to repair DNA damaged by tobacco or it may be that alcohol actually aids toxic chemicals in tobacco to enter into cells.
Liver cancer is another concern connected with alcohol consumption. Cirrhosis of the liver occurs when habitual drinking scars the liver tissues. Damage to liver cells and tissue also increases a drinker’s risk of cancer. Anytime cells are damaged there is a risk that errors in the DNA will occur and that these errors will be replicated.
Breast cancer may be something that most women don’t link with alcohol but the reality is that it can happen. Women who drink just a few weekly cocktails face a greater risk of developing breast cancer. This may be because alcohol impacts estrogen levels and those levels are largely responsible for maintaining healthy breast tissue. This danger is especially acute for women with diets low in B vitamins (folate). Correspondingly, drinking alcohol can prevent the absorption of B vitamins.
Colo-rectal cancers are another form of cancer that can be brought on by alcohol. Cancer in the colon and rectum are linked to alcohol intake, particularly so among men. In this part of the body alcohol may be broken down into acetaldehyde which is a known carcinogen. Recent studies have shown how this process actually begins in the mouth. Acetaldehyde is quite similar to the better known formaldehyde – both are carcinogenic, or cancer-causing substances.
Some may wonder if it is safer to drink one type of alcohol over another. Ethanol is the substance which breaks down into acetaldehyde and is therefore the most likely cancer culprit. Unfortunately, every type of alcohol, from spirits to wine to beer, contains ethanol. It is the quantity not the quality of alcohol which poses the greatest cancer threat.