Alcohol and Cancer Risk
Sit Up and Sober Up…
If you need a good reason to quit or cut back on alcohol this new year, then maybe the new WHO (world health organisation) report on cancer will deliver some sobering facts. When it comes to alcohol and cancer risk, their statement is simple: “no amount of alcohol is safe.“1
It is interesting how the idea that wine is good for us, gained popularity with the general public, when links were found between heart disease and red wine consumption. The findings that the French had lower heart disease were causally linked to light, regular alcohol intake (red wine especially). Seems like we were keen to have a reason to drink more wine: “It is good for our heart! Cheers!”
However, alcohol was declared a carcinogen back in 1988, for its causal link to a host of cancers. More and more research over the past couple of decades has shown more links and stronger evidence for alcohol and cancer risk. The risk is dose-dependent, meaning the more alcoholic drinks you consume, the greater the risk of cancer. But even light drinking, which many consider safe, was directly associated with more than 5000 breast cancer deaths worldwide last year.
Alcoholic beverages can contain at least 15 carcinogenic compounds, including acetaldehyde, acrylamide, aflatoxins, arsenic, benzene, cadmium, ethanol, ethyl carbamate, formaldehyde, and lead. Several different causative pathways are implicated in alcohol-related cancer. Acetaldehyde has a direct toxic affect on many cells and alcohol can affect folate metabolism, change our DNA methylation and cause free radical damage.
Researchers are absolutely certain about the link between alcohol and specific cancers – especially those of the breast, mouth, oesophagus, liver, bowel and pancreas. Links have also been made between alcohol consumption and leukaemia, multiple myeloma, and cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina and skin.
So when it comes to preventing cancers, once again, we have personal actions and habits that we can change to lower our risk. While we can’t change our genetic inheritance, we can freely choose to avoid or limit alcohol as a positive lifestyle habit to lower our cancer risk.
If you would like help with reducing your alcohol intake or support to do a liver detox, please book in for a consult! Or you can check out my online detox programme here.
Rehm J, Shield K. Alcohol consumption. In: Stewart BW, Wild CB, eds. World Cancer Report 2014. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2014.