The Relationship Between Cancer and Alcohol

People who face cancer every day do so with courage, bravery, and a sense of humor that seems inconceivable to their loved ones. Reading their stories often leaves you fluctuating between tears of sadness and tears of laughter. But what can you do when cancer touches your family? And what can you do to join the battle to prevent it from touching other families around the world? Knowledge and education are key to fighting the battle against cancer … . particularly knowledge about everyday things, such as alcohol consumption, that people can change to help protect themselves and their families from a higher cancer risk.

Can Alcohol Cause Cancer?

Much is written about the fact that overexposure to sunlight without sun protection lotion can cause skin cancer. There are nationwide campaigns encouraging women to regularly check their breasts and men to regularly check their testicles. But little is written in the mainstream arena about the other causes of cancer, and the effects of cancer on little-talked about sub-sections of society, such as drug or alcohol abusers.  First, let’s examine evidence that alcohol abuse can contribute to cancer. There is no doubt that alcohol can cause seven types of cancer. Certain types of cancer are associated with substance abuse. Mouth and stomach cancer, for example, are known to be caused (in some cases) by excessive consumption of alcohol. The other cancers that can be caused by alcohol consumption are throat, larynx, esophagus, liver, and breast cancer. But the amount of alcohol you need to drink to contribute towards a cancer risk is much smaller than you would think.  According the The Daily Express: “The Alcohol Public Health Research Alliance (AMPHORA), an EU-funded body of 30 universities and other scientific institutes, said people were drinking on average some 600 times the safe levels for preventing cancers.” This sounds like excessive drinking, but new research has found that drinking just one large glass of wine a day can increase your risk of developing breast , mouth, throat, bowel and esophageal cancer and you don’t need to get drunk to increase your cancer risk. This research is supported by The International Agency for Research into Cancer, who have found that alcohol is one of the most well-established causes of cancer.

So what can you do if you’re worried about your alcohol consumption and any related cancer risk? Well, the American Cancer Society recommends that you limit your alcohol intake to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. If that sounds like too little alcohol compared to your current daily intake, or if you’re worried that you wouldn’t be able to give up drinking, even if it would be beneficial to your health, then don’t be afraid to look for and ask for additional support. You don’t have to get drunk everyday to have a problem with alcohol and be considered an alcoholic. You can find great rehab centers from New Hampshire to New York, Florida to Alaska! Finally, if you currently don’t drink alcohol, then there’s no reason to start doing so. There is compelling evidence to support avoiding alcohol, particularly if you have any family history of alcoholism.

Using Alcohol During Cancer Treatment

There is a clear link between developing cancer and consuming alcohol. But if you’ve already developed cancer and are undergoing treatment, are you able to enjoy the occasional alcoholic drink? A glass of beer with dinner? A flute of champagne at a wedding? According to the American Cancer Society, “It is not clear whether alcohol use after treatment might increase the risk of these cancers [those that can be caused by alcohol consumption] coming back.” However, if you already have one type of cancer, alcohol consumption during treatment could increase your risk of developing another new type of cancer. And there are other side effects of drinking during treatment. If your treatment causes mouth ulcers and sores, you will find that drinking alcohol could irritate these and make them feel more painful. Alcohol can also react badly with certain cancer drugs. Overall then, with your doctor’s permission, you can probably drink a glass of champagne at your daughter’s wedding. But if you can abstain from consuming alcohol during treatment for your cancer, it is best to do so.

By Lisa Porter

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