Does Alcohol Affect Cancer?
Cancer is something that affects millions and millions of people, and the risks of developing many types of cancer are related to both genetic and lifestyle factors. In some ways if you’re genetically predisposed to be at a higher risk for cancer, there’s not much you can do, but so many lifestyle factors also play a part in whether or not people get cancer.
What about alcohol and cancer? Does alcohol affect cancer?
Below is more information about cancer in general, and also information about the relationship between alcohol and cancer.
Cancer can start pretty much anywhere in a body, and under normal conditions, your cells grow and divide, and then create new cells when you need them. As cells become old or damaged, they die, and then new cells can replace them.
When cells are abnormal, damaged or old and they survive instead of dying, and then new cells form anyway and start dividing, it leads to the development of cancer.
A lot of types of cancers form tumors, which are groupings of tissues, while certain cancers of the blood don’t.
So what about alcohol land cancer? Does alcohol affect cancer and if so, in what ways?
The following are some of the specific ways alcohol and cancer can be related:
- Head and neck cancer: Drinking alcohol is a key risk factor for head and neck cancers and in particular cancer of the oral cavity, throat, and larynx. If you have more than 3.5 drinks a day, you have a two to three times greater risk of developing these kinds of cancers as opposed to people who don’t drink.
- Esophageal cancer: Alcohol is a significant risk factor in the development of a certain kind of esophageal cancer which is called squamous cell carcinoma.
- Liver cancer: Most people are aware that drinking excessively can cause liver damage, and it can also increase the risk of liver cancer as well.
- Breast cancer: Breast cancer is one of the leading types of cancer women face, and there have been many studies looking at the links between alcohol and cancer of the breast. Research shows an increased risk of breast cancer that’s associated with drinking alcohol, and the more you drink, the higher the risk.
- Colorectal cancer: There is a slightly increased risk shown with the use of alcohol and cancer of the colon and rectum.
The types of cancer named above are some of the most prominently linked cancers to alcohol consumption, but there are others as well.
For example, studies have shown links, albeit inconsistent, between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancers including ovary, uterus, bladder, pancreas, and stomach.
So why does alcohol affect cancer or increase the risk of developing it?
There are a few reasons doctors believe alcohol and cancer are linked.
First, when your body metabolizes alcohol, a toxic chemical is produced that can cause damage to your DNA. When you drink alcohol, it also makes it harder for your body to break down and absorb certain nutrients, and drinking has been linked to an increased level of estrogen in the blood which is associated with breast cancer.
If you already have cancer and you’re undergoing treatment, you should always speak to your oncologist before you drink. An occasional glass of wine may be okay, but this should be left up to your doctor.
Also, if you drink alcohol, you may be at a higher risk for recurrent cancer.
Alcohol can affect cancer treatment and the risk that you’ll either develop another type of primary cancer or have a recurrence of cancer.
If you want to reduce your risk of developing cancer, you should watch your alcohol intake, and never consume alcohol in excess.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with cancer and you want to know “does alcohol affect cancer,” you should speak with your physician. Not only can alcohol alter your cancer treatment, but it can also increase your risk of a recurrence or being diagnosed with another type of primary cancer.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.
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