The fact that alcohol abuse and addiction can cause a number of health complications is no secret. However, many people are unaware that alcohol consumption has been linked to several forms of cancer. Types of cancer that can be caused by alcohol include breast, liver, and throat cancer.
Alcohol is classified as a known human carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services. As such, even light drinkers are at a moderately increased risk of some cancers. The more alcohol a person drinks, the more likely he or she is to experience alcohol-related cancer.
How Does Alcohol Abuse Increase The Risk Of Cancer?
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, an estimated six percent of cancer deaths worldwide are related to alcohol consumption. Exactly how alcohol increases the risk of certain cancers isn’t entirely understood. However, researchers believe there are a number of ways that alcohol can contribute to the development of cancer.
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Ways that alcohol may influence a person’s risk of cancer include:
- inhibiting the breakdown and absorption of various nutrients that may fight cancer, including folate, vitamin A, and vitamin D
- damaging DNA by producing reactive oxygen species that cause oxidation
- causing the body to convert the ethanol in alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is a toxic chemical that can damage DNA
- damaging body tissues by acting as an irritant
- elevating the presence of estrogen in the body, which can contribute to breast cancer
- increasing body weight
Some forms of alcohol may also contain a number of contaminants that may be carcinogenic to the human body. Potential contaminants include asbestos fibers and hydrocarbons.
Types Of Cancers Linked To Alcohol Abuse
There are a number of different types of cancer linked to alcohol use and abuse. The more alcohol a person consumes, the more he or she is at risk of developing one or more of these cancers.
The known types of cancers associated with alcohol use include:
- Esophagus, Mouth, Throat, And Voice Box Cancer — These types of cancers have been clearly linked to alcohol use and abuse. Combining alcohol with tobacco only increases the risk of developing these cancers.
- Breast Cancer — Women who consumed even a few drinks a week are at an elevated risk of developing breast cancer. This may be due to the fact that alcohol can increase estrogen levels, which has been linked to breast cancer.
- Liver Cancer — Long-term or heavy alcohol use has been proven to increase a person’s risk of liver cancer.
- Colorectal Cancer — Alcohol consumption has been shown to increase the risk of colon and rectal cancers.
Additionally, there is some evidence that suggests alcohol may cause other cancers, including pancreatic and prostate cancers. However, more research is needed to be conclusive.
What Types Of Alcohol Cause Cancer?
In short, any type of alcohol consumed can increase a person’s risk of cancer. All alcoholic beverages contain ethanol, the dangerous substance that is most responsible for causing cancer.
Most standard drink servings contain the same amount of ethanol. For example, a 12-ounce beer, a five-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor all have similar quantities in ethanol. In short, the more alcohol a person consumes, the higher the risk of cancer, regardless of what a person drinks.
Getting Treatment For Alcohol Abuse And Addiction
Seeking treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction is the best way to prevent an increased risk of cancer and other health conditions. Formal treatment programs are often recommended for individuals struggling with an alcohol use disorder.
Depending on a person’s condition, he or she may first need to attend a medically supervised detox program. This is to ensure that the patient safely and successfully withdraws from alcohol. Once a detox program is complete, many people will need to transition into an inpatient program.
To learn more about whether alcohol abuse can cause cancer, contact a treatment specialist today.