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An analysis of 200 studies on the relationship between cancer and alcohol showed that alcohol contributed to the contraction of oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, and larynx cancers, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH). They also found statistically significant increases in the stomach, colon, rectum, liver, female breast, and ovarian cancer after alcohol consumption. However, these findings are dependant on how much alcohol one consumes.

Moderate drinking, classified as one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men, is considered healthy for the heart, but heavy drinking, which is more than 3 drinks a day for women or more than 4 drinks a day for men, is considered a health risk for cancer. It takes a lot more than one drink of alcohol to become a real threat to health. The general rule is that the more alcohol one consumes, the greater the chances are that one will develop one of the cancers listed above. Alcohol is therefore considered a carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance.

Why Alcohol Increases Cancer Risks

Alcohol contains acetaldehyde, which is produced from the way alcohol metabolizes ethanol, and acetaldehyde is strongly considered by researchers to be a possible carcinogen due to its toxic nature as the substance damages DNA and proteins. DNA controls the entire genetic makeup of the body, so when it changes and is unregulated, tumors can start growing and cancer begins to develop. When the DNA sequence is changed by carcinogens, DNA runs the risk of continual growth or the nongrowing of somatic cells that can build up so many mutations that they can no longer function. The body cannot function without working DNA, and alcohol is one of the many carcinogens that can affect DNA.

The oxidation involved with alcohol can also damage DNA and proteins. Alcohol can inhibit the body’s ability to break down vitamin A, B complex, vitamin D, vitamin D, and carotenoids, all of which may play a role in preventing cancer. In women, alcohol increases the production of the estrogen hormone, which is linked to breast and ovarian cancer. These carcinogenic components in alcohol like phenols and hydrocarbons come from the fermentation involved in brewing alcohol. Unfortunately, it seems that alcohol cannot be produced without carcinogens being present.

How to Avoid Cancer, but Still Enjoy Alcohol

The biggest tip to avoid the risk of cancer is to drink moderately or not at all. Studies have shown that women who drank more than 45 grams of alcohol a day had 1.5 times more risk of developing breast cancer and this risk increased by 7% for each extra 10 grams of alcohol they added. Head and neck cancer were correlated with 3 and a half alcoholic drinks a day with 3 times the risk of developing these cancers. People who drank 3.5 or more alcoholic drinks were shown to have 1.5 times the risk of colorectal cancer development with a 7% increased risk every added 10 grams. 

To help protect your health, avoid drinking more than 2 drinks a day and avoid binge drinking altogether. Binge drinking is defined as the consumption of 4 or more drinks for women in a short period and 5 or more drinks for men. Combining tobacco with alcohol can dramatically increase the risk for cancer and red wine is no exception. Overall, it’s recommended that you try to limit drinking to once a week. Drinking shots with friends one night after three months of not drinking is one thing, but try to avoid doing this all the time because more alcohol means higher risks. If you or someone you know is addicted to alcohol, please seek professional help as soon as possible.

Asana Recovery offers treatment for alcohol addiction and has a full detox program with rehabilitation services. From Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to Art Therapy, Asana Recovery uses multiple tools of the mind to help individuals overcome their struggles with addiction. Call (949) 438-4504 to learn more about their treatment programs.