Alcohol and Cancer: How Heavy Drinking Can Lead to Cancer

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Alcohol and Cancer: The Link between Heavy Drinking and Cancer

When a person drinks excessive amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, one of the last things that they think about is the risk of getting cancer. Alcohol and cancer have been linked in several studies, confirming that heavy alcohol use can substantially increase the risk of producing various forms of cancer including heart, neck, breast, liver, colon and prostate cancer among others.

In this article, we will explore the link between heavy alcohol consumption and an increased risk of developing cancer.

Alcohol and Cancer Statistics

A recent study showed the relative risk (RR) of a heavy drinker developing cancer compared to a person who does not drink excessively. For all of the cancers in the study, there was a significant increase in the likelihood of heavy drinkers developing cancer. The alcohol and cancer statistics showed the following:

  • Pharyngeal and oral cancer was 5.13 times more likely
  • Liver cancer was 2.07 times more likely
  • Laryngeal cancer was 2.65 times more likely
  • Stomach cancer was 1.21 times more likely
  • Gallbladder cancer was 2.64 times more likely
  • Lung cancer was 1.15 more likely (non-smokers)

Several studies have shown similar results and indicated that many other forms of cancer could also be linked to heavy alcohol consumption, such as alcohol and prostate cancer.

How is Alcohol and Cancer Linked?

According to the American Cancer Society, the exact causes of cancer in heavy drinking cases are not fully understood. However, there is a clear link between alcohol and cancer. There are several ways that alcohol can increase the risk of cancer and the type of cancer can also be a factor.

Alcohol can cause body tissue damage as it acts as an irritant. This is especially the case in the throat and mouth region. The damaged cells attempt to repair themselves, which often creates changes in DNA leading the person closer to cancer. Bacteria found in the rectum and colon change alcohol into a chemical known as acetaldehyde, which is known to cause cancer in lab tests. Liver damage is also common, leading to scarring and inflammation.

When tobacco smoke is combined with alcohol, the alcohol allows the chemicals in the smoke to enter cells more easily. Alcohol can also inhibit the body’s ability to break down certain chemicals that can cause harm in the body.

Another link between alcohol and cancer is in the body’s ability to absorb helpful chemicals. Folate is a chemical that helps to keep a body healthy, but alcohol can hinder the ability to absorb the chemical.

Alcohol has an effect on hormones too. It can increase the level of hormones such as estrogen. This is known to increase the risk of developing cancer. The increase in the male hormone could also be why alcohol and prostate cancer are believed to be linked.

Consumption of large amounts of alcohol can cause weight gain. Excessive weight gain can lead to an increased risk of developing several forms of cancer.

Apart from the various forms of cancer that a person is at higher risk of getting when excessive alcohol is consumed on a regular basis, the risk of alcohol dependence is great too. In all cancer and alcohol related cases, the more a person drinks, the more likely they are to develop cancer. An alcoholic therefore puts themselves in a situation where their risk of developing the disease is greatly increased.

To get help for alcohol dependence, get in touch with Better Addiction Care today at (800) 429-7690 to find a rehab facility near you.