Alcohol and Cancer
Perhaps no illness is more feared in the developed world than cancer as few direct causes have been identified, with the exception of cigarette smoking. However, research is increasingly showing that obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise and heavy alcohol consumption increase our risk of contracting cancers of several kinds.
Scientists don’t know exactly why alcohol may increase the risk of developing some cancers, but research indicates that the following play a part:
However, the diseases where alcohol poses ‘significant risk’ at moderate levels of consumption are rare with the exception of breast cancer and for drinkers who also smoke.
In its Report on Carcinogens, the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services lists consumption of alcoholic beverages as a known human carcinogen.
The US National Cancer Institute states that 'The evidence indicates that the more alcohol a person drinks—particularly the more alcohol a person drinks regularly over time—the higher his or her risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer. Even light drinkers (those who have no more than one drink per day) and binge drinkers have a modestly increased risk of some cancers. Based on data from 2009, an estimated 3.5% of cancer deaths in the United States (about 19,500 deaths) were alcohol related'.
As part of its guidelines on Nutrition and Pysical Activity for Cancer Prevention, The American Cancer Society "Recommends that people who drink alcohol limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. The recommended limit is lower for women because of their smaller body size and because their bodies tend to break down alcohol more slowly. These daily limits do not mean it's safe to drink larger amounts on fewer days of the week, which can lead to health, socail and other problems.
Alcohol use has been linked to several types of cancer and other health risks, but this is complicated by the fact that low-to-moderate alcohol intake has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Still, lowering the risk of heart disease is not a compelling reason for adults who don't drink alcohol to start"
There have been few studies describing the relation between varying levels of alcohol consumption and the total risk of cancer. A paper published in the annals of oncology in May 2013 presents a meta-analysis that relates alcohol consumption to all-cancer mortality; it was based on almost 50,000 deaths reported in the literature from 18 prospective cohort studies. As expected, the reported average consumption of 50 or more grams of alcohol per day (equivalent to 4 or more typical drinks each day) was associated with an estimated 32% increased risk of dying from cancer, But, surprisingly, the analyses demonstrated a J-shaped curve for alcohol and cancer. Light drinkers (12g a day) showed a statistically significant 9% lower risk, moderate drinkers showed no effect, while heavier drinkers showed a 32% increased risk of all cancer mortality.
Reference: Jin M, Cai S, Guo J, Zhu Y, Li M, Yu Y, Zhang S, Chen K. Alcohol drinking and all cancer mortality: a meta-analysis. Ann Oncol 2013;24:807-816. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mds508.Y, Zhang S, Chen K. Alcohol drinking and all cancer mortality: a meta-analysis. Ann Oncol 2013;24:807-816. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mds508.
Drinking and smoking combined
Smoking and drinking together greatly increases your risk of developing throat and mouth cancer than doing either on their own. That’s because when you drink alcohol it’s easier for the mouth and throat to absorb the chemicals in tobacco that cause cancer.
It’s also true with oesophageal (gullet) cancer. One study found that people who drank up to five units of alcohol and smoked up to eight cigarettes per day could increase their risk of oesophageal cancer between 13 (for men) and 19 times (for women).
Cancer statistics for the US
Lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer are the most common types of cancer in the United States. About 1,658,370 new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2015 and about 589,430 Americans are expected to die of cancer in 2015. Of new cases for men, Prostate (26%), Lung & bronchus (14%) and Colon & rectum (8%) and Urinary bladder cancer (7%) are the most common. For women, the most prevalent sites are the breast (29%), Lung & bronchus (13%), Colon & rectum 63,610 (8%) and Uterine corpus (7%).
The American Cancer Society cancer.org
Please visit the gateway to sensible drinking and health, alcoholinmoderation.com for specific studies and summary papers.
Your doctor can help you figure out if you should make any changes in your drinking, and offer help and advice along the way.
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