The Link Between Alcohol Consumption and Cancer
You may already be aware of many of the health risks associated with alcohol, including liver damage and cirrhosis, but did you also know that drinking even relatively small amounts of alcohol significantly increases the risk of developing certain types of cancer? A recent study showed this correlation was even stronger than researchers had originally thought.
How Does Alcohol Contribute to the Development of Cancer
The link between alcohol consumption and cancer risk is clear enough, but it’s not always easy to see why consuming alcohol would increase the odds of getting cancer later in life. Here is a look at the science behind the risk factors:
- Alcohol damages liver cells – Cellular damage of any kind can raise the risk of cancer.
- An increase in hormone levels – High levels of certain hormones can contribute to cancer risk, and drinking alcohol can increases hormone levels.
- Problems absorbing nutrients – Nutritional deficiencies caused by heavy drinking leave your body in a weakened state, increasing the risk of all kinds of illnesses, including cancer.
- Obesity – No matter what form it takes, alcohol is filled with empty calories, and the obesity it can contribute to is an additional cancer risk.
How Much Alcohol Is Enough to Increase Cancer Risk?
It would be wonderful if there were a magic line that separated safe drinking from the dangerous use of alcohol, but no such line exists. While studies differ, the amount of alcohol that could potentially cause health problems, including cancer, is surprisingly small, even just one drink per day.
If you are worried about your drinking, it is best to avoid the use of alcohol altogether, even if that means getting professional alcohol rehab to help with your sobriety.
Types of Cancer Linked to Alcohol Use
Alcohol does not just contribute to one form of cancer; drinking alcohol can increase the risk of several different forms of the disease, including:
- Liver cancer – Alcohol damages liver tissue, increasing the risk of abnormal cellular growth.
- Pancreatic cancer – Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest types of cancer, and alcohol consumption can play a pivotal role in its development.
- Lung cancer – Smoking and drinking often go hand-in-hand and smoking dramatically increases the risk of lung cancer.
- Breast cancer – Alcohol use is thought to raise the risk of breast cancer in both women and men.
- Esophageal cancer – Alcohol burns on the way down, and it can damage the delicate cells lining the esophagus, leaving drinkers are risk of esophageal cancer.
- Cancer of the larynx – Alcohol use can increase the risk of this especially dangerous form of cancer, a disease that can require surgical removal of the voice box.
- Mouth cancer – Cancers of the mouth are not uncommon among alcoholics and other heavy drinkers.
- Stomach cancer – Alcohol takes a heavy toll on the digestive system, and it also increases the risk of stomach cancer.
Genetic Factors That May Play a Role in Alcohol Use Causing Cancer
Genetic risk factors are thought to play a role in alcohol use, not only in the risk of developing alcoholism from a seemingly innocent social drinking habit but also in the risks associated with that excessive drinking. Specifically, there are thought to be several genetic factors that could increase the risk that the excessive use of alcohol will lead to a cancer diagnosis, including:
- A history of cancer in the family – A cancer diagnosis in a close relative like a parent or grandparent is thought to raise the risk of getting the disease yourself.
- A parent who struggled with alcoholism – Struggles with alcohol are thought to have a genetic component. Having a parent who was addicted to the substance could raise your own risk of the disease and cancers stemming from it.
- Preexisting liver problems – If you or someone in your close family suffered from liver disease, you might have an increased risk of cancer caused by excessive drinking. These family illnesses always bear watching, especially if you are drinking to excess.
Alcohol Detox and Rehab at WhiteSands
Even though it is legal, alcohol is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous and harmful drugs available. This ancient and widely used substance may play a role in all manner of religious and civil ceremonies, but that does not mean that it is harmless – quite the contrary.
You can now add cancer to the long list of health impacts alcohol can have. The fact that it only takes a small amount of alcohol to increase the risk of the disease should be a wake-up call to anyone who is struggling with alcoholism or alcohol use disorder.
Whether that person is you or someone you care about, we encourage you to reach out to the staff at WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab today. We have the skills and training needed to put you on the path to sobriety, along with the resources and treatment programs necessary to keep you on that journey for the rest of your life.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.