Alcohol and The Risk of Cancer: What You Should Know

October 19, 2022 | Alcohol Addiction

alcohol and cancer

“Everything in moderation,” is something that most parents say to their children at some point as they are growing up.  In corollary, there are certainly many things in life you should avoid altogether, but drinking socially, eating things that you like, and other activities when done from time to time will most likely not lead to your immediate death.  There are many things that will increase your risk of cancer, including smoking tobacco, overeating and obesity, excessive exposure to the sun, and yes, the consumption of alcohol. In the drug and alcohol rehabilitation world we talk about the dangers of combining the use of different substances, and this applies to developing cancer, too. Smoking, drinking, and being overweight in combination is going to raise your risk more so than just one of these factors.

Regardless of your risk of  cancer, which certainly should be taken into consideration when deciding on what activities in life you take part in, at Quantum, we have programs that can assist with any level of alcohol abuse.  Alcohol Use Disorders and Substance Use Disorders involving other drugs can affect people from any walk of life. That is why at Quantum we create treatment plans specific to each individual client’s needs. We know that everyone we work with has had their life impacted differently by drugs or alcohol and that their road to recovery will be unique to them, too.

At Quantum Behavioral Health Services we have three levels of care for people struggling with alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, drug abuse or drug addiction. These are Partial Care (PC), often referred to as Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) at other treatment centers, Intensive Outpatient Care (IOP), and traditional Outpatient Care (OP).  Whenever we begin working with a client, we thoroughly assess their level of alcohol addiction or drug addiction, determine if they have any cooccurring disorders for which they would benefit from dual diagnosis treatment, and review any prior substance abuse care they have been provided.  In this way we can determine which of our levels of care best fits their needs.

If you or one of your loved ones is struggling with drugs or alcohol, please give us a call today.  We have comprehensive programs that can help make a major change in life and are ready to help.

Does Drinking Alcohol Increase Your Risk of Cancer?

The simple answer regarding whether drinking alcohol increases your risk of cancer is yes.  However, most people know someone who lived well into their 70s, 80s, and even 90s who drank socially all of their adult life and alcohol seemingly had no major impact on their longevity.  That is because other factors do come into play, as is typical with many health issues people face throughout their lives.  Older people in general are more likely to develop cancer than those of the younger generations.  Obesity has been tied to cancer, along with a person’s diet regardless of their weight. Genetics, hormones, and an individual’s family history can all be indicators as to whether they are more likely to develop any kind of cancer, as well as one’s specific to their family tree. Additionally, chemicals that people are exposed to, or ingest as part of their diet, also play a part.  Adding alcohol to any or more than one of these contributors to cancer risk can make developing one type or another more likely. 

How Drinking Impacts Your Risk of Cancer

Consistently drinking on a daily basis, or close to that rate of consumption, as well as binge drinking can both impact your risk of cancer.  This is due to several factors.  Breast cancer is the category that is most affected by alcohol consumption, and even light drinking can increase the risk, especially for those who have family history and are predisposed to the disease. In general, consistent and heavy drinking can put undue stress on many portions of a person’s body.  This stress can result in issues like inflammation, which is one of the causes of cancer cells developing. The process the body goes through to break down alcohol also may cause changes in a person’s DNA, leading to cancer in one or more areas.  Alcohol also decreases the body’s ability to break down other nutrients, resulting in substances being left in organs and cells that would usually be processed. Alcohol also limits the body’s absorption of some good vitamins and minerals, too. 

Types of Cancer Associated with Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol is linked to several types of cancer and is suspected to contribute to increasing the risk of developing a few other types as well.  Mouth, throat, voicebox, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and breast cancer have all been linked to cancer.  Additionally, stomach cancer is thought to be linked to cancer, too, and researchers continue to assess this and other types to be sure. In the end, there is no good type of cancer, although some do have better survival rates. Doctors, scientists, and researchers have basically said the math is easy: the more alcohol you drink, the higher your cancer risk.  However, in most cases moderate drinking is not usually pointed to as being an issue.  The one exception is breast cancer, and research shows that drinking even small amounts of alcohol can increase risk.

The risk of Mouth, throat, voice box, and esophagus cancer is also increased even more for people who smoke and drink, as alcohol may also limit how these cells can repair damage to their DNA caused by the chemicals in tobacco.  In the United States, as well as many other countries, drinking and smoking have historically gone hand in hand, although in recent decades the percentage of cigarette smokers in the country has dwindled. It is no surprise that cancer of the liver is on this list as it is fairly common knowledge that alcohol does damage to this vital organ over time. Alcohol can affect the liver by causing inflammation and scarring, which has been found to raise the risk of liver cancer. 

Colon and rectal cancer rates are higher in men, thus males who drink heavily and consistently can raise their risk of developing these types of cancer. Women also are at risk, but to a lesser degree. On the other side of the coin, women are more likely to develop breast cancer. Alcohol can raise estrogen levels in the body, which may explain some of the increased risk. 

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. The goal is to get as many people as possible involved in raising awareness and funds to help support life-saving research and life-changing support. National, state, and local municipalities and organizations often have functions, fundraising activities, and health awareness campaigns to help raise the awareness regarding this disease, too. Throughout the month, people often wear pink ribbons to honor survivors, remember those lost to the disease, and to support the progress being made to defeat breast cancer.

Need Help Quitting Drinking? Quantum Can Help

If you think you have even the smallest issue with how much or how often you drink, please give us a call at Quantum Behavioral Health Services and we will walk you through all of our available treatment plans and care options.