Alcohol may seem like a harmless drink even if you only drink socially. The truth is that according to the National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, alcohol is a known carcinogen. Going into treatment for alcoholism will show you taking control of your body and will lower your chances of developing cancer.
Even a modest drinker who has only had one drink a day still has a chance of increasing the risks of some cancers. There are many types of cancers that you can contract such as liver cancer. You could get cirrhosis which is the scarring and inflammation of the liver. Healthy tissue gets replaced by scar tissue which prevents the liver to function the right way. Alcohol can also affect estrogen levels by changing the way your body metabolizes them, leading to breast cancer. Very Well Health says that 75% of people with oral cancer are drinkers and the chances can go even higher if you smoke as well. Other cancers can include throat, esophageal, laryngeal, colon and rectal cancer.
Alcohol has the potential to give someone cancer because of ethanol and acetaldehyde. Ethanol is the main ingredient in alcohol and acetaldehyde is created once alcohol is digested in the body. Drinking can weaken the body’s ability to process and absorb important nutrients like Vitamin A, C, D, E, folate, and carotenoids. Folate is a vitamin that cells in the body needs to stay healthy. Heavy drinkers tend to have low levels of folate which can play a role in breast and colorectal cancer. The cells that are damaged by alcohol try to fix themselves which leads to changes in DNA that lead to cancer. Bacteria in the colon and rectum converts alcohol into large amounts of acetaldehyde. Alcohol can also lead to excessive weight gain as extra calories are being added to your diet increasing the risks of many different types of cancer that comes from obesity.
If you quit drinking alcohol right away, it will not lead to an immediate reduction in cancer risk. Eventually, the cancer risks will decline if you continue towards your path of sobriety but it could take years before the risk goes away. For example, The International Journal of Cancer says that people who stopped drinking still had high risks of oral cavity and pharyngeal cancers than people who never drank even 16 years after they stopped. The chances, however, were still lower compared to when they started.
The type of alcoholic beverages are not going to matter in terms of contracting cancer. Ethanol is an ingredient found in all alcoholic beverages. The larger or stronger the drink, the more ethanol there will be and the more your risk of cancer will be. There will never be a way to completely prevent the risk of ever getting cancer but there are ways to prevent your chances of cancer as a result of alcohol. The obvious way to avoid alcohol-related cancer would be to not touch a drop of alcohol. Try to avoid going to bars or meeting friends who drink in front of you. Let them know that you simply are not interesting in drinking alcohol and would prefer a non-alcoholic beverage like water, soda, coffee, tea, or juice. If it is too late for that, limit the number of alcoholic beverages you consume. The American Cancer Society recommends that men only have no more than two drinks per day and women should have no more than one. An average beer is 12 oz, a bottle of wine is 5 oz, and a bottle of liquor is 1.5 oz. If you are a woman and are afraid of getting breast cancer, you should have no more than four drinks a week.
Another thing that you should avoid doing is binge drinking even if it is just for one night. One night has the power to change the rest of your life. If you are a woman, it means not having four drinks within a short period of time. Men should not have five or more drinks in a short period of time. You should also avoid mixing alcohol with tobacco products as that will increase your chances of cancers like oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, and esophagus. Eating more foods with folate can help reduce cancer risks like leafy green vegetables, fruit, dried beans, and peas. If you have any questions or concerns about your alcohol intake, speak to your doctor to see if you can rule out cancer.
If you are currently in cancer treatment, you should avoid alcohol as even small amounts can irritate mouth sores caused by cancer treatments and can even make them worse. Alcohol can also conflict with certain cancer treatments which can cause serious side effects. Even if you decide to relapse after surviving cancer, it does not mean that you will never get cancer again as you can get a different kind. It is important to ask yourself whether drinking alcohol is more important than contracting a fatal disease. Think about the family and friends that you have who would hate to see you ill or die as a result of an addictive substance that you could have gone into treatment for. By not touching alcohol or going into treatment if you have, you are taking control of your body and will lead a long, healthy life.
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