Can Alcohol Use Cause Cancer?
Alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for certain types of cancer. But does alcohol cause cancer? Understanding the risks associated with drinking can be confusing and overwhelming, but it’s important to know what they are to make informed decisions about your health.
If you’re battling an addiction to alcohol, there is hope. Zinnia Health provides a variety of treatment options, including detox plus inpatient and outpatient care. If you’re ready to take control and begin a new life, contact us 24/7 at (855) 430-9439.
How Does Alcohol Affect Cancer Risk?
Alcoholic drinks, including beer, liquor, white wine, sparkling wine, red wine — you name it — are known carcinogens, meaning they can cause cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the cancer research findings are clear. The more alcohol someone consumes, especially if it’s regular and over an extended period, the greater their risk of cancer related to alcohol use.
Even modest drinking, defined as one drink or less per day, has been linked to a slightly increased risk of certain types of cancer.
What Types of Cancer Are Related to Alcohol?
The National Cancer Institute also states that alcohol is linked to these types of cancer:
- Head and neck cancer: Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk for certain head and neck cancers, including cancer of the pharynx (throat) and larynx (voice box). Furthermore, those who consume a large amount of alcohol and also smoke are at much higher risk for developing these types of cancers.
- Esophageal cancer: Alcohol is linked to an increased risk of developing esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, a type of cancer that occurs in the esophagus (throat or food pipe). The dangers of drinking alcohol, compared to not consuming any at all, can range from a 1.3 times higher risk for light drinkers to a 5-fold greater danger for heavy drinkers.
- Liver cancer: Regular, heavy alcohol consumption roughly doubles the risk of developing two types of liver cancer.
- Breast cancer: Research has found an increased risk of breast cancer with alcohol intake. Light drinkers have a slightly elevated breast cancer risk. Moderate drinkers and heavy drinkers have a greater risk of danger.
- Colorectal cancer: People who consume moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol are at higher risk for developing cancers of the colon and rectum. This increased risk is about 1.2-1.5 times greater than that experienced by non-drinkers.
Extensive research has been conducted to determine whether binge drinking or moderate drinking increases the risk of other types of cancer.
Little or inconsistent evidence exists about the connection between alcohol consumption and cancers of the ovary, prostate, stomach, uterus, or bladder. However, research suggests alcohol consumption may increase the risk of developing melanoma, prostate cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
Is Alcohol the Main Cause of Cancer?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the leading risk factors for preventable cancers are:
- Excess UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds
- Overweight and obesity
- Excessive alcohol consumption
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines heavy drinking as:
- Consuming more than three drinks on any day or more than seven drinks per week for women
- Consuming more than four drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week for men
Public health cancer prevention strategies focus on reducing cancer deaths by asking people to:
- Drink in moderation
- Avoid tobacco
- Do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular cancer screenings when appropriate
There is no shame in struggling with an addiction to alcohol. Acknowledging the problem is the first step towards reclaiming your life. At Zinnia Health, our experienced staff are here to guide you as you explore all resources available. Call our helpline anytime at (855) 430-9439 to start your recovery journey today.
Is There a Safe Level of Alcohol Consumption?
According to the CDC, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults of legal drinking age should abstain from alcohol or practice moderation.
Men should limit alcohol to two drinks a day, at most, and women should have no more than one drink per day.
People who should refrain from consuming any alcoholic beverages, according to the guidelines, include:
- Those who are pregnant or might be pregnant
- Children and young people under the age of 21
- Those with certain medical conditions, such as liver or pancreatic disease
- Those recovering from alcohol use disorder (AUD) or anyone who cannot control their drinking
How Does Alcohol Increase the Risk of Cancer?
The CDC also points out that consumption of ethanol, the type of alcohol in alcoholic beverages, requires your body to break it down into acetaldehyde, a toxic compound that wreaks havoc on DNA and impedes its ability to repair itself.
DNA is the most fundamental and important instruction manual for a cell, as it guides normal development and activities. When DNA becomes damaged, however, that same cell can undergo abnormal growth patterns, leading to cancerous tumors.
What Are the Other Risks Associated With Drinking?
According to MedlinePlus, excessive alcohol consumption can increase your chances of sustaining injuries, being in a car accident, or suffering from alcohol poisoning.
It can also trigger violent behavior or put you in harm’s way as a victim of violence.
Heavy alcohol use over a long period may cause health problems, such as:
- Alcohol use disorder (AUD) or alcoholism
- Liver damage
- Cardiovascular disease
- Increased risk of injuries
How Do You Know if You Have a Drinking Problem?
How much or how often a person drinks doesn’t always indicate a drinking problem, according to MedlinePlus. What really matters is the impact that alcohol has on people’s lives and well-being.
You may have a drinking problem if you:
- Regularly drink more than you intend on drinking
- Cannot cut back
- Devote a great deal of time to getting, consuming, or recuperating from the repercussions of alcohol
- Struggle to maintain relationships and responsibilities because of alcohol use
- Neglect work, academic, or social engagements due to alcohol consumption
How Can You Stop Drinking?
If you’ve developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options. These include:
- Counseling: Counseling helps you understand the issues that have contributed to your drinking, provides techniques to help cope with cravings, and helps you create a plan for healthier living.
- Medications: Doctors may prescribe medications, such as naltrexone or acamprosate, to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
- Detoxification: Detoxification is necessary to rid the body of alcohol and other drugs. A medical professional closely monitors your health during this process.
- Inpatient Rehab: Inpatient rehab programs provide a safe, structured environment for individuals to detoxify and receive comprehensive treatment.
- Outpatient Rehab: Outpatient rehab gives you the flexibility to continue work, school, or other responsibilities while receiving help for your addiction.
- Group Therapy: Group therapy sessions can help you develop strategies for sobriety, provide support from fellow recovering individuals, and give you the motivation to stay sober.
Are you struggling with an addiction to alcohol? Zinnia Health is here to provide detoxification, inpatient, and outpatient care depending on your unique situation. Call our alcoholism helpline 24/7 at (855) 430-9439 today. Our compassionate addiction specialists are ready to answer your questions and help you get the support you need to live a long and healthy life.