New Year celebrations, birthday parties, weddings, happy hour, and a stressful day at work are all reasons we pick up a glass (or two, or three) of our favorite alcoholic beverage. Usually, we don’t think twice about it. We may even claim it’s necessary. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional drink, but doctors are increasingly concerned with binge drinking and consistently heavy drinking over a period of time. Yes, doctors are concerned with the impaired judgment that drinking brings, the poor choices made by those who have had too much to drink that lead to unfortunate accidents—even death. But over time, alcohol prevents our bodies from functioning properly and even causes cancer. Currently, alcohol is linked to 5.5% of cancer diagnoses and 5.8% of cancer deaths. Before you order your next drink, consider the effects alcohol may have on your health.
Alcohol And Cancer
Alcohol consumption of any kind—beer, wine, and liquor—increases your risk of developing six GI cancers. The cancers you may be at risk for include mouth, throat, larynx (voice box), esophageal, liver, and colorectal. Researchers are still working to determine all of the reasons alcohol increases the risk of cancer, but many believe it is partly because the fermentation process produces the chemical ethanol, which can be harmful to the healthy cells in your body. When alcohol is consumed, it produces a chemical called acetaldehyde which causes cells to stop repairing DNA damage. Alcohol is filtered through the liver and excessive amounts can create cirrhosis in the liver, which is scar tissue that is linked to liver cancer. Folate is necessary for proper functioning of the colon, but alcohol prevents proper folate absorption which multiples the risk for colon cancer. Alcohol also weakens the body’s ability to absorb many necessary nutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E as well as increases the fat content in the body. Weight gain also has a lasting impact on your overall health and raises the risk for cancer.
How Much Is Too Much?
One drink is defined as a 12 oz. beer, 5 oz. of wine, and 1.5 oz. of liquor. Women should consume a maximum of one drink a day in order to fall into the realm of moderate drinking. The recommended max for a man is 1-2 drinks per day. Binge drinking is dangerous for everyone and should always be avoided. Binge drinking includes four or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting for women or more than seven beverages per week. For men this means more than five drinks in one sitting or more than fourteen alcoholic beverages in one week . Even if you do not binge drink on a regular basis, you still put yourself at risk for developing cancer. The risk for cancer certainly rises with the amount of alcohol you consume; however, there is still concern about the damage alcohol can do to your GI tract if you drink lightly over a period of time. Light drinking means you drink less than the recommended maximum. If you have concerns about your alcohol consumption and risk for cancer, consider contacting a GI specialist.
Our team at GI Associates understands the value of life and we hate the thought of you or your loved one being diagnosed with cancer due to a choice in beverage. Cancer cannot be prevented 100% but your risk for cancer will decline significantly if you make adjustments to your consumption. The sacrifice of ordering a non-alcoholic beverage is small compared to the emotional and physical pain associated with cancer. Let our team of GI doctors help you make lifestyle choices that could save your life. If you think you are at risk for GI cancer or have questions about your alcohol consumption, schedule an appointment with us today.