Are you at Risk
Cancer kills an estimated 526,000 Americans yearly, second only to heart disease. The most common cancers in the United States are cancer of the lung, large bowel, and breast. Rothman, K.J. in Preventive Medicine 9(2):174-179, 1980, found that there is now considerable evidence to suggest a connection between heavy alcohol consumption and increased risk for cancer, with an estimated 2 to 4% of all cancer cases thought to be caused either directly or indirectly by alcohol.
There is also a strong connection between alcohol use and cancers of the esophagus, pharynx, and mouth, whereas a more controversial association links alcohol with liver, breast, and colorectal cancers. The American Cancer Society found that together, these cancers kill more than 125,000 people annually in the United States.
Alcohol Will Not Allow you To Be Cancer Free for Life
Research shows a link between the level of alcohol consumption and certain types of cancer. As alcohol consumption increases, so does risk of developing certain cancers, such as cancers of the upper digestive tract, the esophagus, the mouth, the pharynx, and the larynx. Other data link alcohol consumption and cancers of the liver, breast, and colon. An estimated 75% of esophageal cancers in the United States are attributable to chronic, excessive alcohol consumption.
Nearly 50% of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx are associated with heavy drinking. People who drink large quantities of alcohol over time have an increased risk of these cancers as compared with abstainers. If they drink and smoke, the increase in risk is even more dramatic.
Prolonged heavy drinking has been associated in many cases with primary liver cancer; however, it is liver cirrhosis, whether caused by alcohol or another factor, which is thought to induce the cancer. In the United States, liver cancer is relatively uncommon, afflicting approximately 2 people per 100,000, but excessive alcohol consumption is linked to as many as 36 percent of these cases. Alcohol cannot promote cancer free for life.
Mechanisms of Alcohol-Related Cancers
Preliminary studies show that alcohol may affect cancer development at the genetic level by initiating and promoting cancer. Acetaldehyde, a product of alcohol metabolism, impairs a cell's natural ability to repair its DNA, resulting in a greater likelihood that mutations causing cancer will occur.
Alcohol Assists in the Development of Cancer
Alcohol may act as a co-carcinogen by enhancing the cancer-provoking effects of other chemicals. The risk for mouth, tracheal, and esophageal cancer is 35 times greater for people who both smoke and drink than for people who neither smoke nor drink, implying a co-carcinogenic interaction between alcohol and tobacco-related carcinogens.
Alcohol's cancer producing effect may be explained by its interaction with enzymes that normally help to detoxify substances that enter the body. Carcinogens such as those from tobacco and diet can become more potent as they pass through the esophagus, lungs, intestines, and liver and encounter the activated enzyme.
Chronic alcohol abuse may result in abnormalities in the way the body processes nutrients and promote certain types of cancer. Reduced levels of iron, zinc, vitamin E, and some of the B vitamins, common in heavy drinkers, have been experimentally associated with some cancers. Also, levels of vitamin A, hypothesized to have anticancer properties, are severely depressed in the liver and esophagus during chronic alcohol consumption. For a cancer free life, just watching your diet will not reduce your chances of developing cancer in your body.
A recent study indicates that as few as two drinks per day can suppress any beneficial effects of a 'correct' diet on decreasing risk of colon cancer. Although the study suggests that a diet high in folic acid, and B vitamin found in fresh fruits and vegetables, decreases the risk for colon cancer, it also warns that alcohol consumption may counter this protective action and increase the risk for colon cancer by reducing folic acid levels.
Suppression of Immune Response
Alcoholism has been associated with suppression of the immune system. Immune suppression makes chronic alcohol users more susceptible to various infectious diseases, and to cancer. For your best chances to remain cancer free for life, you would be best to reduce your alcohol consumption to a minimum. This means a maximum of two alcoholic beverages no more than 3 times a week.