The short answer is yes: numerous scientific studies have drawn a correlation between alcohol consumption and cancer. As with almost anything related to the human body, it’s obviously more complex than that. A glass of wine here and there probably won’t increase cancer risks substantially — and research shows very moderate consumption of certain adult beverages even has health benefits for many people. That being said, chronic consumption of alcohol can play havoc with your entire body, and one of the negative consequences of that interference can be cancer.
How is Alcohol Linked to Cancer?
The increased cancer risks noted among heavy drinkers are generally believed to be related to ethanol (the chemical form of alcohol) found in adult beverages. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes that increased consumption volumes tend to lead to additional cancer risks, so the longer you go without seeking addiction treatment, the more you put your body in harm’s way. Even if you’re only having one drink a day, you could experience a slight increase in cancer risks. The consensus seems to be that three or more beverages a day come with a marked increase in the risk of development of cancer.
Medical researchers and scientists still aren’t 100 percent clear on alcohol’s complete impact on the body, but they have identified some processes by which alcohol might increase cancer risks. First, when your body breaks down the ethanol in adult beverages, it creates acetaldehyde. This is a chemical known to be toxic to humans; researches believe it may also be a carcinogen, which is a factor in the development of cancer. In short, your body turns alcohol into poison, and if you have too much in your system on a regular basis, your body isn’t able to deal with it effectively.
Alcohol can also impair your body’s ability to absorb key nutrients in food — and many of those vitamins and minerals help your body stay healthy and fend off cancer cells. Couple this with the fact that many people who are caught in addiction don’t get enough nutrients to begin with, and you can see how dangerous the situation can get for your body.
Alcohol also causes unnatural interactions in other areas of your body. Researchers believe these reactions can lead to DNA damage, lipids, and proteins, all of which makes it harder for your body to stay cancer free.
Types of Cancer Linked to Alcohol Consumption
Some types of cancers are more linked to alcohol consumption than others. Liver cancer, for example, is highly linked to alcohol and usually the first type of cancer many people associated with drinking. Unlike with some other cancers, liver cancer can be primarily caused by alcohol consumption because the liver plays such a vital role in processing what you ingest. In fact, over-consumption of alcohol is one of the leading causes of liver cancer.
Other cancer types that have been linked to alcohol include:
- Breast cancer. Studies of more than 58,000 women who had breast cancer indicated a correlation between rising alcohol consumption and the development of breast cancer. Women who drank approximately three alcohol beverages daily (or more) were 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Esophageal cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma, a certain type of cancer of the esophagus, is highly linked with alcohol consumption. Researchers believe drinking too much alcohol is a primary factor in the development of this disease. Some people also have a metabolic deficiency that alters the way alcohol is processed by the body, making them even more at risk for esophageal cancer.
- Head and neck cancer. The risk of developing cancer of the head or neck rises with alcohol consumption, say researchers. Someone who imbibes 3.5 or more adult beverages daily can be two to three times more likely to develop such cancers.
- Colorectal cancer. Drinking 3.5 alcoholic beverages or more daily increases your risk of developing colon cancer by about 1.5 times.
What Happens if I Stop Drinking Now?
An immediate halt to alcohol consumption doesn’t erase the damage that might already have been done to your body, but continued sobriety can help reduce the risks of cancer. The longer you go without drinking, the better your body is able to recover. Studies have shown that the risks of some types of cancers don’t reduce until someone has been sober for as long as ten years.
However, you shouldn’t let this long-term approach to health stop you from seeking alcohol addiction treatment today. While you can’t reduce damage overnight, you can stop more damage from occurring, and keeping cancer at bay isn’t the only reason you should stop drinking.
If you can’t stop drinking on your own and alcohol is impacting your life — whether it’s with regard to your health, your relationships or your career — it’s never too late for recovery. Call the Outpatient Treatment center today at (844) 211-7944 to find out what your options for seeking sobriety — and a healthier life.