There is a strong link between alcoholism and cancer. Drinking excessively, and sometimes even drinking moderately, can lead to dangerous alcohol effects, it can heighten your risk of developing certain types of cancer.
Per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans set out by the federal government, it is inadvisable to start drinking alcohol, whatever the reasons. All those who choose to consume alcohol should drink in moderation. What is moderate drinking, though?
Well, according to NIAAA (the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), men should drink no more than two standard drinks each day, and women no more than a single standard drink. The following are considered standard drinks:
- Beer (12oz)
- Wine (5oz)
- Spirits (1.5oz)
In line with the above, NIAAA defines heavy drinking as follows:
- Men drinking 5 standard drinks per day, or 15 standard drinks per week.
- Women drinking 4 standard drinks per day, or 8 standard drinks per week.
Consuming alcohol in quantities beyond those parameters and could heighten your chances of developing many health conditions, including cancer.
What is the Most Common Cancer Caused by Alcohol?
According to the National Cancer Institute, the heavy consumption of alcohol is associated with a heightened risk of two types of liver cancer:
- Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma
- Hepatocellular carcinoma
Types of Cancer Caused by Alcohol
Alcoholic beverages are included as a human carcinogen on the 15th Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program.
Research suggests that drinking alcohol could cause cancer in at least seven sites throughout the body. The risk of developing cancer increases as you consume more alcohol, particularly in the case of sustained alcohol abuse. With certain types of cancer, those drinking moderately and those binge drinking are also at slightly increased risk.
In the United States, roughly 3.5% of cancer deaths are related to alcohol. While not everyone who consumes alcohol will get cancer, your risk increases the more alcohol you consume.
Alcohol can trigger cancer in various ways, including:
- Accumulation of acetaldehyde: The conversion of alcohol in the body into acetaldehyde, a toxic chemical, can damage your DNA and prevent your cells from repairing that damage. This can lead to cancer.
- Hormonal changes: Drinking alcohol can increase the level of estrogen in the body. Estrogen is a hormone linked to breast cancer.
- Cellular changes: Alcohol can impact various cells in the mouth and throat, helping carcinogens to be more easily absorbed.
We’ll now highlight how alcohol is linked to the following types of cancer:
- Breast Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Liver Cancer
Many studies show that drinking alcohol increases the chance of women developing breast cancer. Consuming alcohol causes increased levels of hormones like estrogen associated with breast cancer. Additionally, alcohol can damage the DNA in some cells, further heightening the risk profile for breast cancer.
According to this review of studies, females consuming more than three alcoholic drinks weekly are at 15% increased risk of breast cancer compared to women who drink no alcohol. The risk rises exponentially with each additional alcoholic drink.
Among teenage girls drinking between three and five alcoholic beverages per week, the risk of developing benign breast lumps is tripled. Sometimes, benign lumps can develop into breast cancer in later life.
Research indicates an association between those with acute pancreatitis and the subsequent development of pancreatic cancer. One of the most common reasons for acute pancreatitis presenting is chronic alcohol use.
Many studies demonstrate that heavy alcohol consumption is strongly linked to an increase in colon and rectal cancers. There is ongoing research into the association between alcohol consumption and other forms of cancer. There is growing evidence to suggest alcohol intake can increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with twice the risk of developing two types of liver cancer.
Overcome Alcoholism at The District Recovery Center
If you are one of the 28.5 million people in the United States with alcohol use disorder, there’s some good news: while alcoholism is a chronic brain disorder, it is also treatable.
At The District Recovery Center, we specialize in the outpatient treatment of alcohol use disorder, including the treatment of alcohol withdrawal. In addition to regular outpatient programs, we also offer more intensive addiction treatment in the form of IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs). This allows you to get the structured therapy you need without needing to head to alcohol rehab.
Through an evidence-based combination of medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, and counseling, you can build a firm foundation for ongoing recovery here at The District. When you complete your program, we ensure you have the appropriate level of aftercare and support in place to minimize the chance of relapse.
If you are struggling with a co-occurring mental health disorder like anxiety or depression, we provide coordinated dual diagnosis treatment, allowing you to attack both issues head-on.
To get started, reach out to TDRC today.