A night out with friends, a wedding reception, birthday party, or a stressful day at work. These are all reasons people use to drink an alcoholic beverage. Even if you’re normally a sweet tea drinker, you’ll raise a glass of champagne to the happy couple. You may drink occasionally or even socially, but are you tempted to have a few too many in the right setting? The American Society of Clinical Oncology has recently released information that reveals how dangerous alcohol consumption really is.
Alcohol is linked to 5% of new cancer diagnoses and 5.8% of cancer deaths across the globe—especially cancers of the GI tract. Research reveals that 70% of Americans don’t realize the association of alcohol with a risk for breast, liver, colon, esophagus, and head and neck cancer. Risk is greatest for those who drink heavily over a long period of time, however, you still put your body in danger even by drinking lightly or occasionally. Light drinking raises your risk of head and neck cancers by 13% while heavy drinking raises the risk by 500%. Risk for breast cancer is increased by 4% due to light drinking and 61% due to heavy drinking.
Alcohol And Your GI Tract
Your liver is one of the most vital organs in your body. It makes nutrients, cleans your blood, and detoxifies harmful substances. If your liver gets damaged, it attempts to repair itself and in the process causes cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a late stage of scar tissue that has formed in the liver. Once there, it is irreparable. Cirrhosis is also the culprit of liver cancer. The most common form of liver damage is a result of chronic alcoholism. Colon cancer is another product of heavy drinking. Alcohol also prevents folate from being absorbed correctly in your colon, which is a known indicator that your colon is headed down the path to developing cancer. The specific reasons alcohol causes damage in your body is not fully understood, however doctors understand that when alcohol is consumed, a chemical called acetaldehyde is produced. This often causes cells to stop repairing DNA damage. Alcohol also limits your body from absorbing various nutrients that are vital to your overall health. In addition, alcohol increases the fat content in the body, and the excess weight gain can raise your risk for GI cancer.
Breaking Down Alcohol Consumption
So how much is too much? What’s the difference between “light drinking” and “heavy drinking?” Light drinking is defined as consuming one drink per day and heavy drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks at one time. A drink is considered 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, and 1.5 oz. of hard liquor. While you take precautions in other areas of your life to prevent various cancers, it’s important that you take initiative to prevent GI cancer as a result of alcohol consumption. Binge drinking should be avoided. For women, binge drinking is defined as having more than three drinks in one day or more than eight drinks in one week. For men, consuming four or more drinks in one day or more than 15 drinks in one week is considered binge drinking. Over time, binge drinking poses the greatest threat to your GI tract. However, don’t take that information for granted. There is no medical proof that alcohol—even red wine—has any benefit to your overall health.
Sameer Islam, MD is a board-certified Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist practicing at Southwest Gastroenterology in Lubbock, Texas. For an appointment feel free to contact his office at (806)-761-0747. You can get more information from his webpage (www.sameerislam.com) where you can also subscribe to his monthly newsletter. He also has a weekly Facebook Live show on Wednesdays, 8:30 PM CST.