Alcohol Causes Cancer

Study confirms that alcohol may cause cancer.

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• Health: Food & Nutrition

Matt Anderson's Take
The link between alcohol and cancer has been around for quite some time and it's well known that alcohol consumption can increase your risk of several types of cancers including colorectal cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, head and neck cancer, and liver cancer.

Why Do We Keep Drinking?


Studies have been done for a while now and the links seem to be pretty definitive yet many of us still drink alcohol. Is it because so many don't know the link between alcohol and cancer? Is it because we think it can't happen to us? Or do we just not care? Well, it's said that 90% of people have no idea that there is a link between alcohol and cancer.

The Data


A recent study by Jennie Connor of the University of Otago in New Zealand that's titled Alcohol consumption as a cause of cancer suggests that alcohol was responsible for 5.8% of call cancer deaths in 2012. Well, 5.8% may not sound like a big number until you realize that's around 500,000 people! It's also worth noting that this study took place over 10 years, making it one of the larger and more comprehensive studies on the subject.

If you're a smoker I'm sure you already know your risk of developing a cancer is far higher than a non-smoker, but if you're a smoker and a drinker then your risk increases further.

Wait, Isn't Red Wine Okay?


We've all heard that a glass of red wine can be okay, even good for us on occasion. So how does this new study conflict with the red wine being healthy theory?

According to the National Cancer Institute, there have been some studies in lab animals that have found certain substances in red win (like resveratrol) do have anticancer properties. Resveratrol can also be found in grapes, raspberries, peanuts, and other plants. Unfortunately, human testing has not provided evidence that resveratrol works as an anticancer medicine or as a way to treat cancer.

So Cold Turkey And I'm Good?


Unfortunately, quitting alcohol altogether hasn't proven to had an immediate reduction in cancer risk and that it may take years for the risks to lower to the same as a non-drinker. These studies have primarily focused on head, neck, and esophageal cancers so there isn't enough data for other cancer types.

An analysis of several studies pooled together showed that a decrease in cancer risk after quitting alcohol may require at least 10 years. Even after a 16 year period, the risk of cancer for ex-drinkers was higher than for those who never drank.

Will We Change?


Probably not. If you're a drinker, maybe you'll use this information to drink less and maybe that can put you on the path to taking a permanent break from alcohol. For most people, even this powerful knowledge likely won't change anything in their drinking habits. It's sort of like going to a hospital and watching all of the doctors and nurses outside taking a smoking break.

Clearly, quitting alcohol is a big step in having a healthier lifestyle (see A Healthy Lifestyle - Where Do You Start?) which is something most of us could use.
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