Alcohol and Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute there is a correlation between alcohol consumption and some cancers.  Alcohol is a carcinogen.  The research is clear that the more alcohol one drinks and, more specifically, the more alcohol one drinks over time increases one’s chance of acquiring an alcohol related cancer.  

The following cancers have demonstrated a clear association connected to alcohol consumption:

Head & Neck Cancers – The risk increases by 2 to 3 times for those who consume 3.5 or more drinks per day.  

Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma – In general, this specific cancer occurs in populations who lack an enzyme involved in alcohol metabolism.   This missing enzyme is typically found in people of Chinese, Korean and Japanese descent. 

Liver Cancer – The primary cause of liver cancer is found in populations who were heavy drinkers.

Breast Cancer – More than 100 epidemiological studies have linked alcohol consumption to breast cancer.  As alcohol consumption increases to 3 drinks per day the risk for breast cancer increases 1.5 times.  Even one drink a day increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer slightly by 7%.  

Colorectal Cancer – The statistics on colorectal cancer are basically the same as those for breast cancer.  Three drinks per day increases one’s risk by 1.5x, and even one drink increases one’s risk by 7%.  

Alcohol typically increases one’s risk for cancer through the following four means.

1.       The breakdown of alcohol produces the toxin acetaldehyde which can damage one’s DNA.

2.       The oxidation process that occurs when consuming alcohol can further damage DNA as well as proteins and lipids.

3.       Alcohol can slow down or inhibit the proper absorption of nutrients including vitamin A,  vitamins C,D,E, folate and carotenoids. 

4.       Alcohol increases estrogen levels which is linked to breast cancer. 

The bottom line – avoid drinking alcohol.  When and if you drink, females should keep it to a max of one drink per day and males to a max of two drinks per day.  And for those looking for reservatol in red wine, you can get it from red grapes.