Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

Alcohol and Cancer

March 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Alcohol and Cancer, Alcohol Facts

Alcohol and Cancer

Alcohol and Cancer

There is strong evidence that alcohol increases cancer risk everywhere it “touches.” Alcohol increases the risk of certain types of cancers such as oral, pharynx, gastrointestinal, esophageal and liver cancers in both genders.  Several studies have shown an increased risk of basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, with alcohol consumption.

The relationship between alcohol and cancer is strong, but it is not widely acknowledged by the public or even by physicians. The World Health Organization has labeled alcohol as the third largest risk factor for disease burden.

With alcohol and cancer, usually the more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk for cancer. However, studies have shown that even moderate amounts of alcohol can contribute to developing cancer. A third of all alcohol related cancer deaths may be linked to those who drink less than one and a half drinks per day.

Precisely how alcohol contributed to cancer is unknown, though there is a strong correlation between alcohol and cancer. Some studies show that alcohol affects estrogen levels in females. Estrogen is a hormone that causes cancer. Other studies show that alcohol functions as a solvent, which allows tobacco chemicals to enter the digestive tract.

There has been some studies that alcohol in moderation, like red wine, has health benefits, but alcohol causes ten times as many deaths as it prevents. Greater consumption of alcohol increases risk for cancer, but there is no “safe threshold” for alcohol and cancer risk.

Alcohol is responsible for around one in every thirty cancer deaths in the United States, and even a drink a day increases risk. Breast cancer accounted for the most common alcohol related cancer deaths among women, contributing to fifteen percent of all breast cancer deaths. Among men, cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus accounted for the most alcohol linked cancer deaths.

Alcohol abuse and cancer are highly correlated. Two people could drink the same amount of alcohol in a period of time, say five drinks per week, but if one of them engages in “binge drinking”, drinking all five drinks in one sitting, and the other drinks one drink or less per day, the binge drinker will have a higher risk for cancer. Scientists think that this is because one of the metabolites of alcohol, acetaldehyde is a carcinogen.

Acetaldehyde is produced by the liver as it breaks down ethanol. The liver then eliminates 99 percent of the acetaldehyde. An average liver can process about one drink per hour. If a person drinks more than one drink per hour, the acetaldehyde can build up. When people have a defect in the gene for alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme that breaks down acetaldehyde, they are at a much higher risk for developing cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract and liver. This suggests that the level of acetaldehyde is a factor in causing cancer. This is also why binge drinkers are at a higher risk of developing cancer than people who drink the same amount over a longer period of time.


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