Drinking a glass of wine or a bottle of beer is a common method used by society as a way of relaxing and socializing. Ideally, when people drink alcohol, it should be done in moderation. For men, this means consuming no more than two drinks daily, while for women one drink per day should be the limit. Unfortunately, some find staying within these recommended limits difficult to accomplish for any number of reasons. For them, alcohol can become a debilitating habit that negatively impacts all areas of their life, including their health. When people routinely drink alcohol in high quantities, they increase their risks for developing any of a number of cancers and other health problems. Learn about the link between alcohol and cancer.
Alcohol and Cancer of the Mouth
When cancer forms in one’s mouth, experts refer to it as oral cancer. This also includes the lips, cheeks, tongue, and sinuses. The National Cancer Institute notes that annually there are over 21,000 men and roughly 9,000 women who are diagnosed with this type of cancer. In addition, they also claim that of the people diagnosed with oral cancer, three out of four have a history of alcohol, alcohol and tobacco, or tobacco use. They have found that according to studies, individuals who drink heavily and regularly are at a higher risk of developing cancer of the mouth. While alcohol alone raises the cancer risk, adding tobacco increases it even further.
Alcohol and Cancer of the Esophagus
Connecting one’s mouth and stomach is a tube made of muscle. It is called the esophagus, and its job is to propel or push food that is taken into the mouth down into one’s stomach. Cancer of the esophagus is called esophageal cancer and yearly there are over 12,000 people in the U.S. who are diagnosed with it. There are several factors that put people at higher risk for this type of cancer, such as being male, over the age of 55, or a sufferer of chronic lower esophageal irritation. Alcohol elevates the risk, particularly when people not only excessively consume it, but also heavily smoke tobacco.
Alcohol and Throat Cancer
Cancer of the throat is often discussed alongside cancer of the mouth. It is found in the pharynx, tonsils, or the larynx (voice box). When doctors refer to throat cancer, they often name them according to where the cancer is located in the patient’s throat. For example, when cancer starts in the portion of the throat that is located behind the nose, it is called nasopharyngeal cancer. Like mouth cancer, people who are frequent consumers of alcohol have an increased chance of developing cancer. In fact, studies have shown that people who regularly drink alcohol are six times more likely to develop throat cancer. When the use of tobacco of any kind is introduced, the risk factor increases.
Alcohol and Liver Cancer
Alcohol’s contribution to liver cancer is an indirect one. Drinking itself does not cause people to develop liver cancer, however, it does cause people to develop a condition that is a direct risk factor of the disease. That condition is called cirrhosis and according to WebMD, over half of the people who are diagnosed with liver cancer also have cirrhosis. Alcohol cirrhosis is scarring of the liver due to excessive and abusive alcohol consumption. This scar tissue increases one’s chances of developing cancer.
Alcohol and Breast Cancer
According to research, the more alcohol a woman consumes on a weekly basis, the greater her risk of developing breast cancer. How much the risk increases varies depending on the agency and research results. Some studies show that the risk of breast cancer increases by 15 percent in women who consistently consume three alcoholic drinks a week and continues to rise by ten percent for each additional regular weekly drink beyond three. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism finds that for everyone daily alcohol drink, the risk of breast cancer raises by ten percent. The earlier a person begins drinking the greater the risk. For example, according to BreastCancer.org, girls who drink between three to five alcoholic drinks a week when they are 9 to 15 years old are three times more likely to develop certain types of breast cancer later during their life.
There are numerous immediate and long-term health risks that are associated with regular and heavy alcohol consumption. Health risks that develop quickly include those that are due to alcohol-related injuries such as those that are caused by car accidents, violence, drowning, or fire. A person can suffer from alcohol poisoning which may lead to reduced blood pressure, coma or even death. Alcohol may cause uninhibited or reckless sexual behavior that may lead to unprotected sex, pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. If pregnant, it may also result in the stillbirth of one’s fetus or in health problems for the child.
With long-term alcohol abuse, one might develop not only cancer, but also cardiovascular problems, or they may develop neurological problems such as stroke or dementia. It may affect the brain, resulting in memory difficulties or an impaired ability to learn. It may also create neurological problems such as depression, feelings of suicide, or anxiety. Alcohol may also adversely affect the liver and cause problems such as pancreatitis gastritis, or alcoholic hepatitis.
Get Help Before Alcohol and Cancer Get the Best of You
Now that you know the dangers of both alcohol and cancer, learn how Morningside Recovery can help. No matter how long you’ve been drinking, our alcoholism rehab program in California can teach you how to get sober through a mix of evidence based therapy and holistic approaches. Our addiction rehab programs include:
- 12 step recovery program
- Non 12 step rehab treatment options
- Family therapy
- Dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders