Alcohol Use and Cancer

Published on April 14, 2015

Updated on May 14, 2018

Too many harmful accidents and premature deaths are related to alcohol use every year. Cancers caused by excessive drinking are responsible for 200,000 deaths in the United States every year. April is Alcohol Awareness Month and a perfect time to discuss why consuming high levels of alcohol can put you at risk for several types of cancer. Drinking alcohol to excess has several long-term effects including damage to the brain, heart and liver. You can reduce your risk for liver, breast and colorectal cancers simply by limiting your alcohol consumption.

Liver Cancer

The liver performs numerous vital functions including filtering and processing blood, metabolizing nutrients and detoxifying harmful substances. Excessive alcohol drinking can cause the disease cirrhosis, which replaces healthy liver tissue with scar tissue and eventually prevents the liver from functioning properly. Nearly 70% of liver cancer cases are caused by cirrhosis. Keep your liver healthy by limiting your alcohol consumption.

Breast Cancer

Studies have shown that higher blood estrogen levels can impact breast cancer risk. Alcohol can change the way a woman’s body metabolizes estrogen, causing blood estrogen levels to rise. Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. Experts estimate that the risk of breast cancer goes up another 10% for each additional drink women regularly have each day.

Colorectal Cancer

Numerous studies have linked high alcohol consumption with colorectal cancer. One explanation is that alcohol can affect the metabolism of different nutrients that might play a role in reducing cancer risk. Alcohol also contains calories that add up fast and lead to excessive body fat, another cause of colorectal cancer.

For a lot of us, drinking is social but cutting back on drinking does not mean cutting back on social gatherings with friends and family. When you go to pick up that second or third drink, remember that excessive drinking can increase your risk for several cancers. Do your health a favor and limit your alcohol consumption to reduce your risk for life-threatening diseases and accidents.

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