Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer to affect men in the United States, behind skin cancer. This occurs when cancerous cells begin spreading in the prostate, a part of the male reproductive system.
There are several risk factors that can make someone more likely to develop prostate cancer, including older age and family history. Another potential risk factor that scientists have been researching in recent decades is alcohol consumption.
Millions of adults in the United States drink alcohol, and as many as 13 out of every 100 males in the United States develop prostate cancer at some point in their lives. Research results looking into a potential link between drinking alcohol and developing prostate cancer have been mixed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), prostate cancer is most common in:
- older men
- African-American and Afro-Caribbean men
- those with a family history of prostate cancer
What is less unsure among medical professionals are the dangers of heavy drinking. For men, this is defined as drinking five or more drinks in a single sitting (binge-drinking) on five or more days a month. This amount of drinking can pose serious health risks to adults with or without cancer and may worsen prostate cancer symptoms.
Can Heavy Drinking Increase The Risk For Prostate Cancer?
Alcohol and alcohol abuse has been linked to an increased risk for several types of cancers, including throat cancer, breast cancer, cancer of the esophagus, and others.
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society, this risk does not extend to prostate cancer. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has similarly stated that a link between alcohol use and prostate cancer is “controversial.”
Most research into alcohol use and prostate cancer has not shown a significantly increased risk in those who occasionally drinks.
There is some evidence, however, to suggest that heavy drinking may lead to somewhat greater risk. Occasional drinking is less likely to increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
These research findings discovered an increased risk of prostate cancer in the following situations:
- drinking three or more alcoholic drinks per day on a regular basis
- older men with a previous history of heavy drinking
- drinking heavy amounts of hard liquor
Heavy drinking may not always lead to an increased risk for prostate cancer, but it will not decrease the risk. It can also worsen symptoms of those who have already been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and lead to other concerns such as alcohol dependence and addiction.
Can Drinking Alcohol Affect Symptoms Of Prostate Cancer?
Although the link between heavy drinking and prostate cancer is unclear, the dangers of heavy drinking are not.
Drinking heavy amounts of alcohol is a sign of alcohol abuse, which can lead to dependence and addiction. This can have negative effects on a person’s health throughout the body and the brain, with consequences such as:
- heart disease
- liver disease
- weakened immune system
- high blood pressure
- digestive problems
- increased risk for dementia
- learning and memory problems
Heavy drinking can also cause many symptoms that overlap with those of prostate cancer. This can mask prostate cancer symptoms, make them worse, or potentially delay receiving appropriate treatment.
Overlapping symptoms include:
- more frequent urination
- having to urinate more during the night
- erectile dysfunction
- weak urine flow
Many other symptoms of heavy drinking are also common among those with metastatic prostate cancer – a stage where cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
These other shared symptoms with metastatic prostate cancer include:
- weight loss
- constipation or diarrhea
- swelling of the legs or feet (edema)
- shoulder, thigh, or hip pain
- bone pain
Is It Harmful To Drink Alcohol If You Have Prostate Cancer?
Drinking alcohol while undergoing cancer treatment can be risky and may cause greater discomfort throughout the treatment process.
The most concerning risks of drinking while undergoing treatment can include:
- worsened side effects of radiation therapy
- masking symptoms of metastatic prostate cancer
- increasing other health risks
- decreasing the effectiveness of cancer treatment medications
- greater risk for prostate cancer-related death
These risks can be even greater for people who are drinking heavy amounts of alcohol or are addicted to alcohol. Alcohol abuse and addiction can wreak havoc throughout the body, and lead to other struggles commonly experienced by people with cancer such as depression and anxiety.
Heavy drinking is a serious concern that can pose severe dangers for people with or without prostate cancer. If you are struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, the best way to prevent or treat serious health concerns is to seek professional treatment.
Are You Concerned About Your Drinking?
Millions of people in the United States struggle with alcohol abuse or addiction. As someone’s drinking problem becomes worse, it’s common to worry about the potential health risks of your own drinking or that of someone you know. For people with a family history of prostate cancer or other risk factors, this concern can be even greater.
Our treatment specialists at Vertava Health offer free and confidential support 24/7 for people with questions about alcohol abuse or how to find an alcohol treatment program. If you are worried about your drinking, or that of a loved one, contact us today.