Alcohol and cancer are strongly linked, and today we’ll explore how drinking excessively – sometimes even moderately – can increase your risks of certain types of cancer.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans laid down by the federal government, you should not start drinking alcohol for any reason. For those who drink alcohol, the guidelines recommend doing so in moderation. This means a maximum of two standard drinks daily for men and a single standard drink per day for women. Per these guidelines, heavy drinking is defined as more than 4 drinks daily or 8 drinks weekly for women, and 5 drinks daily or 15 drinks weekly for men.
Drink outside of these parameters and you might increase your chances of developing a battery of health conditions, up to and including cancer.
Does drinking alcohol cause cancer directly, then?
Does Alcohol Cause Cancer
Alcoholic beverages are listed on the National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens as a known human carcinogen. There is a strong scientific consensus that drinking alcohol can cause cancer in at least seven sites, and possibly more.
Current research shows that the more you drink – especially when alcohol abuse is long-term – the greater your risk of developing one of the cancers associated with alcohol.
With some types of cancer, even moderate drinkers have a slightly increased risk, and the same applies to binge drinkers.
Data shows that roughly 3.5% of all cancer deaths in the US were related to alcohol.
Clear patterns have emerged between alcohol consumption and the development of the following types of cancer:
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Head and neck cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Liver cancer
Studies have consistently shown that increased alcohol intake leads to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Light drinkers have a slightly increased chance of developing breast cancer compared to non-drinkers, while the risk increases exponentially among moderate drinkers and heavy drinkers.
This analysis of 88,000 non-smoking women found that light and moderate drinking was associated with a significantly increased risk of alcohol-related cancers, breast cancer in particular.
Studies consistently show that the heavy consumption of alcohol is linked to a sharp increase in the risk of cancers of the rectum and colon compared to no alcohol consumption.
Other studies have explored the association between alcohol intake and other cancers. Evidence is beginning to accumulate associating alcohol consumption with increased risks of pancreatic and prostate cancers
Head and neck cancer
Both moderate and heavy alcohol consumption is linked to higher risks of some head and neck cancers.
Moderate drinkers face increased risks of oral cavity cancers and throat cancers, while heavy drinkers face even greater risks of developing these cancers. The risk is further magnified among those who drink alcohol and smoke tobacco, according to research.
All levels of alcohol consumption bring about an increased risk of developing esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.
Heavy alcohol intake is linked to a doubled risk of two types of liver cancer.
Alcohol and Breast Cancer
A robust body of research shows that drinking alcohol increases a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer, specifically the hormone-receptor-positive type.
Alcohol raises levels of estrogen and other hormones associated with this form of breast cancer. Beyond this, alcohol might also damage DNA in cells, further raising the risk of developing breast cancer.
Women who drink three or more alcoholic drinks weekly have a 15% higher chance of breast cancer than those who do not drink any alcohol. The risk increases exponentially with each daily drink consumed.
Teenage girls who drink three to five alcoholic beverages weekly have a three times higher risk of developing a benign breast lump than teetotal teens. Some benign breast lumps lead to an increased chance of developing breast cancer in later life.
Alcohol and Pancreatic Cancer
This study shows an association between acute pancreatitis and developing pancreatic cancer at a later stage. Chronic alcohol use is one of the most typical causes of acute pancreatitis, according to this 2014 study.
Alcohol and Colon Cancer
Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancers, is one of the most common types of all cancer, and there is a clear association between drinking alcohol and developing colorectal cancer.
This 2014 study found even light drinkers consuming one drink daily are at increased risk of bowel cancer. Among moderate drinkers, there is a greater relative risk for men than women, possibly due to the different way men and women metabolize alcohol.
This significant study shows a clear link between drinking alcohol and developing bowel cancer
Identifying the early warning signs of bowel cancer can be highly beneficial for ensuring a favorable outcome. Look out for the following signs if you are concerned about alcohol abuse and bowel cancer:
- Changes in bowel habits
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in stools
Overcoming Alcoholism with The District Recovery
If you have alcohol use disorder and you want to fight back before suffering from adverse health outcomes, we can help you with that here at The District Recovery Community.
Our evidence-based outpatient treatment programs include both IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs), giving you the support and structure you need to beat alcoholism without the restrictions or the cost of inpatient rehab.
We use MAT (medication-assisted treatment) in combination with counseling, psychotherapy, and holistic therapy for a whole-body approach to healing. We also ensure you have the right aftercare in place and offer sober living homes to help you thrive in your recovery after completing your course of treatment at TDRC.
For anyone struggling with a co-occurring mental health condition like depression, anxiety, or PTSD, our dual diagnosis treatment program helps you address this at the same time as attacking your addiction to alcohol.
All you need to do to get started is reach out to admissions today at 844.287.8506.