Does Drinking Alcohol Increase Your Cancer Risk?

Most people know that heavy drinking can cause health problems. But many people might not know that drinking alcohol also can raise their risk of getting cancer.

How Does Alcohol Increase Cancer Risk?

1 Damage To Body Tissues

Alcohol can act as an irritant, especially in the mouth and throat. Cells that are damaged by the alcohol may try to repair themselves, which could lead to DNA changes that can be a step toward cancer.

Bacteria that normally live in the colon and rectum can convert alcohol into large amounts of acetaldehyde, a chemical that has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals.

Alcohol and its byproducts can also damage the liver, leading to inflammation and scarring. As liver cells try to repair the damage, they can end up with mistakes in their DNA, which could lead to cancer.

2 Effects On Other Harmful Chemicals

Alcohol may help other harmful chemicals, such as those in tobacco smoke, enter the cells lining the upper digestive tract more easily. This might explain why the combination of smoking and drinking is much more likely to cause cancers in the mouth or throat than smoking or drinking alone.

In other cases, alcohol may slow the body’s ability to break down and get rid of some harmful chemicals.

3 Effect On Absorption Of Folate Or Other Nutrients

Alcohol might affect the body’s ability to absorb some nutrients, such as folate. Folate is a vitamin that cells in the body need to stay healthy. Absorption of nutrients can be even worse in heavy drinkers, who often have low levels of folate. These low levels may play a role in the risk of some cancers, such as breast and colorectal cancer.

4 Effects On Estrogen Or Other Hormones

Alcohol can raise the levels of estrogen, a hormone important in the growth and development of breast tissue. This could affect a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

5 Effects On Body Weight

Too much alcohol can add extra calories to the diet, which can contribute to weight gain in some people. Being overweight or obese is known to increase the risks of many types of cancer.

The More Alcohol You Drink, The Higher Your Cancer Risk.

Cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, and esophagus

Alcohol use raises the risk of these cancers. Drinking and smoking together increases the risk of these cancers even more than drinking or smoking alone. This might be because alcohol can help harmful chemicals in tobacco get inside the cells that line the mouth, throat, and esophagus. Alcohol may also limit how these cells can repair damage to their DNA caused by the chemicals in tobacco.

Liver cancer

Long-term alcohol use has been linked to an increased risk of liver cancer. Regular, heavy alcohol use can damage the liver, leading to inflammation and scarring. This might raise the risk of liver cancer.

Colon and rectal cancer

Alcohol use has been linked with a higher risk of cancers of the colon and rectum. The evidence for this is generally stronger in men than in women, but studies have found the link in both sexes.

Breast cancer

Even a few drinks a week is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer in women. This risk may be especially high in women who do not get enough folate (a B vitamin) in their diet or through supplements. Alcohol can also raise estrogen levels in the body, which may explain some of the increased risks. Cutting back on alcohol may be an important way for many women to lower their risk of breast cancer.