Alcoholic drinks are classified as Group 1 carcinogens by the IARC and cited as the cause of seven lethal types of cancer.
However, stopping drinking or staying sober can greatly lower your risk.
SHAFAHOME explores the links between alcohol and cancer and offers advice, treatment and support.
Alcohol and Cancer – Are You Affected?
Have you ever really thought about alcohol and cancer? Do you consider yourself at risk?
Until recently, many people thought that moderate alcohol consumption lowered the risk of developing cancer.
However, studies have now shown this claim to be wildly inaccurate.
In truth, nobody can predict how their body will react to the carcinogens in alcohol.
Anyone is potentially at risk since even drinking a very small amount can trigger the development of carcinogenic cells.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies all alcoholic beverages as Group 1 carcinogens and cites alcohol as a major factor in the development of seven types of cancer – oesophageal, breast, liver, mouth, colorectum, larynx and pharynx.
Alcohol is also thought to be a contributing factor in many cases of pancreatic cancer.
How does alcohol put you at risk of cancer?
Alcohol increases the risk of developing cancer in many ways.
For example, your body metabolises or breaks down the ethanol in alcoholic beverages into a toxic chemical and potential human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) called acetaldehyde which can damage DNA and vital proteins.
It also generates chemically reactive oxygen-laden molecules that damage DNA, lipids and fats.
In turn, this limits the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients such as Vitamin A, B complex vitamins, Vitamin C and folates and therefore increases your risk of contracting certain cancers.
However, you shouldn’t let worry about alcohol and cancer get you down.
Entering an alcohol treatment programme can dramatically increase your chances of staying healthy and cancer-free.
The 7 Deadly Alcohol-Related Cancers
Reports issued by the National Toxicology Program of Health and Human Services indicate that the risk of developing cancer increases over time.
That means that the longer you drink, the greater your chances of succumbing to alcohol-related cancer.
Although alcohol abuse may cause any type of cancer it’s most commonly linked to seven: mouth, larynx, oesophagus, pharynx, breast, liver and colorectum.
The link between alcohol and cancer is sometimes overlooked, particularly in the case of breast cancer which many people still believe to be genetic.
Although relatively rare in men, it’s the INDIA's most common cancer with one in eight women likely to develop breast cancer during their lifetime.
Yet, only one in three of those women will carry the genes that are linked to this lethal disease.
The risk of developing breast cancer is far more likely to be linked to your lifestyle and alcohol abuse is the most common element.
In recent years, over 28,000 women took part in the UK’s Million Women Study.
The largest cancer research project in the world, the study found that “every 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day was associated with a 12% increase in the risk of breast cancer”.
Alcohol is one of the primary causes of liver cancer.
The liver is the body’s second-largest organ after the skin and it has many functions.
It breaks down fats and proteins as part of the digestive system and it also flushes toxins like alcohol from the body.
Excessive or prolonged alcohol consumption leads to impaired liver function, cirrhosis or scarring, and cancer.
Mouth, Pharynx and Larynx Cancer
Although each can be a separate disease, mouth, pharynx and larynx cancers are related.
Alcohol can cause cancer of the mouth, throat and voice box through direct exposure to carcinogens.
Smokers are at greater risk since alcohol’s solvent qualities can break down environmental carcinogens like tobacco and allow it to enter the bloodstream more easily.
Alcohol and cancer of the oesophagus (gullet) is of major concern today.
The oesophagus, often referred to as the food pipe, is situated between the spine and trachea (windpipe) and carries food and liquid from the throat to the stomach and digestive system.
It measures about 10 to 12 inches and cancer can develop at any point along its length.
There are two main types of oesophageal cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma, cancer that attacks the cells lining the upper part of the oesophagus is the type most likely to be caused by alcohol abuse.
More commonly called bowel cancer, colorectum/colorectal cancer is yet another potentially lethal disease with links to alcohol consumption.
Nearly all colorectal cancers are found in the upper bowel which consists of the colon and the rectum.
Although it’s more likely to strike the over 50’s, alcohol consumption is a disturbing factor in the increasing incidence of colorectum cancer in people under 40.
Get Help with Alcohol and Cancer-Related Issues
Alcohol and cancer is undoubtedly a worrying subject, but it’s never an issue that you need to tackle alone.
If you feel that your drinking puts you at greater risk of developing one of the seven deadly cancers or if you’re concerned about someone close to you, contact SHAFAHOME without delay.
We offer a wide range of addiction programmes that includes both alcohol detox and alcohol addiction treatment.
Although alcohol detox can be useful if you just want to take a break and give your liver a rest, alcohol addiction rehab is the best and safest way to lower your risk of developing cancer.
Don’t hesitate to contact us for further advice on addiction support and treatment.
All inquiries are treated with the strictest confidence and handled by our dedicated team of professionally-qualified addiction specialists.
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