Excessive drinking doesn’t just affect your liver

By Ea Francisco

There’s always been talk about how alcohol has potential cancer risks but now, we’re definitely sure.

A statement by the American Society of Clinical Oncology has just revealed that people who drink more are at risk of developing seven different kinds of cancer. Past research have supported the idea that there’s a connection between alcohol consumption and risk of cancer.

For one, the ethanol in alcoholic drinks, once metabolized, can turn into a harmful toxin called acetaldehyde. This chemical damages your DNA and causes changes that lead to cancer. Normally, build-up of this chemical can be prevented by our natural ALDH enzymes, but this brings in the next problem. Alcohol in your bloodstream can impair your bodily functions, which includes the release of these enzymes. It also gets in the way of your body’s ability to break down nutrients essential to preventing cancer.

People who drink at least three and a half alcoholic beverages a day are two to three times more vulnerable to mouth and neck cancer—particularly cancer in the mouth, pharynx, and larynx. This is worse for smokers.

Esophageal cancer is also possible for alcohol drinkers, especially those with an enzyme defect. Our body breaks down alcohol with the use of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase-2 (ALDH2), which makes acetaldehyde into a non-toxic substance. Unfortunately, some people are born with ALDH2 who can’t tolerate a lot of alcohol. In effect, this makes them more prone to esophageal cancer.

The National Cancer Institute notes that generally, you won’t immediately reduce your cancer risk if you stop drinking. They note that some studies show that it can take as long as 10 years after stopping for mouth and pharynx cancer risks to decrease.

As expected, alcohol consumption is also the primary cause of liver cancer. Your liver is the main organ responsible for metabolizing alcohol and when it tries to break down alcohol, the released reactive oxygen species damages the liver. Normally, the liver can repair itself but undergoing repetitive damage hinders its recovery.

Increase in breast cancer are also consistently found in studies. At least a hundred epidemiologic studies show that women who drank at least three alcoholic drinks a day have 15 percent more chances of getting breast cancer. This is because alcohol raises estrogen levels, which is a positive reactor to breast cancer.

Even after 16 years, the risk is still higher for ex-drinkers than non-drinkers

Lastly, you’ll also be put at risk of colorectal cancer, which is cancer in both the colon and rectum. An analysis of 57 studies showed that regular drinkers who had three and a half drinks a day increased their risk of this cancer by 1.5 times compared to non-drinkers and occasional drinkers. Just having more than one drink a day already increases your risk of colorectal cancer by seven percent.

Decreasing cancer risk isn’t as easy as stopping yourself from drinking either. The National Cancer Institute notes that generally, you won’t immediately reduce your cancer risk if you stop drinking. They note that some studies show that it can take as long as 10 years after stopping for mouth and pharynx cancer risks to decrease. Even after 16 years, the risk is still higher for ex-drinkers than non-drinkers.

With this in mind, you can choose to, at least, lessen your alcohol consumption if you’re not fully committed to being a non-drinker. The National Institute of Health says the most you can drink to be considered low-risk is no more than three drinks if you only drink once a week or at most one if you drink every day. There would still be a little risk, but it’s significantly better than having three drinks every day of the week.