There are a host of risk factors which can contribute to occurrence of and deaths from cancer, but some of these risks are less understood than others. Many people know that risk factors like age, diet, weight, level of regular exercise, and environment factors all contribute to developing cancer. And while alcohol use is also a known risk factor, it’s becoming more evident that it poses more of a danger than doctors once knew.
Is It Just Heavy Drinking That Puts Me At Risk?
When you hear that alcohol contributes to occurrences of cancer, you might find yourself thinking, “I don’t drink that much. It can’t possibly apply to me,” but a recent study by the Journal of Clinical Oncology indicates otherwise. While higher risk is clearly associated with heavy drinkers, even moderate drinkers are shown to be at an increased risk. Moderate drinking is defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, while heavy drinking is defined as 8 or more drinks per week for women and 15 drinks or more for men. As an example, light drinking can up your risk of head and neck cancers by 13%, with a shocking 500% increase for heavy drinkers. Breast cancer risk goes up 4% in light drinkers, with a 61% rise seen in heavy drinkers.
What Cancers Are Most Affected By Alcohol Consumption?
The study cited above has shown that drinking contributes to higher frequency of cancers in the esophagus, breast, colon, rectum, pharynx, larynx, and liver. The elevated risk is thought to be due to chemicals found within alcohol that can damage healthy cells. It is also seen to potentially weaken the body’s ability to process and absorb several nutrients that are crucial to a healthy functioning body. Current suggestions are to limit drinking to one or less drinks per day for women and 2 or fewer for men. Binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks in a short period for women and five or more for men, is also advised against. If you do choose to continue a moderate alcohol consumption, make sure you maintain good health in other areas of your life. Eat a balanced diet, make sure you get enough exercise, and prioritize good sleep and healthy habits.
Not Only Is The Risk Higher, The Knowledge Is Lower
What makes these findings more interesting is that not only does alcohol increase your cancer risks, a National Cancer Opinion Survey conducted in 2017 indicated that these risks aren’t common knowledge. Only 30% of those surveyed identified alcohol as a cancer risk factor, with only 38% indicating they understood that limiting alcohol consumption would lower their risks.
If you have any questions about your risks for cancer and how you can reduce them, talk to your doctor during your next annual appointment at The Woman’s Clinic. Both our new and existing patients can schedule appointments online. We look forward to helping you maintain your health and lower your risk of cancer and other serious diseases.