Bet you never thought THIS
could give you cancer…
The next time you clink glasses for a toast… or tip up your cup at a football party… or celebrate TGIF a little too enthusiastically… you might want to give a little thought to how much you drink and how often.
A number of studies show a possible link between alcohol use and an increased risk of developing certain cancers. A lot hangs on that word “possible.” Is this one more thing we need to worry about? Or is it a scientific guesstimate we can safely ignore? Let’s take a look. . .
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Some researchers say there’s little evidence to suggest that moderate alcohol consumption puts you at greater risk for developing the most common cancers.
But how about “moderate” use every day? Many of these investigators are uncertain about how much influence regular alcohol use has on cancer risk.
A variety of studies suggest the more alcohol you consume the greater your risk of developing these cancers:
2. Colon and rectum
The reason for the uncertainty stems from conflicting study results. Let’s take a look at breast cancer as an example…
Several studies used words like “modest1,” “mild2,” and “weak3” to describe the connection between alcohol use and breast cancer.
On the flip side, a study4 published in the November 2011 Journal of the American Medical Association said that even moderate alcohol use led to an increase in breast cancer risk!
Still other studies claimed to find no link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer.
Just to add to the confusion—one study5 even stated that moderate alcohol use could actually REDUCE breast cancer risk!
And if you think you’ll get a clearer opinion from health organizations that research and provide cancer information, don’t be surprised to learn that…
Even the cancer “experts” don’t agree!
David J. Hanson, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the State University of New York, has researched and written on the subject of alcohol and drinking for over 30 years.
On his website Alcohol: Problems and Solutions6, Hanson noted the lack of consensus within the medical community about alcohol increasing risk for developing various cancers.
Hanson found that the National Cancer Institute, the National Library of Medicine, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center all say alcohol is not a risk factor for colorectal cancer.
But several other groups disagree, including the American Cancer Society, the Mayo Clinic, and the Colorectal Cancer Coalition. These groups all advise that heavy drinking may increase the odds of being diagnosed with the disease.
One finding is not in doubt: Alcohol and tobacco used together are especially lethal. Combining alcohol and tobacco greatly increases the risk of developing throat and mouth cancers. You can help reduce your risk for developing these cancers if you quit smoking.
If you’re thinking there might be good reason for so many folks to sound a warning, you might also be wondering…
How do researchers think alcohol
raises your cancer risk?
Although the medical community can’t say for sure exactly how alcohol affects cancer—they do have a few ideas…
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS)7, alcohol may raise cancer risk in any of four different ways:
1. Damages body tissues—some researchers think alcohol may irritate and damage mouth and throat cells. As the cells try to repair themselves, it may cause DNA changes that lead to cancer. What’s more, alcohol changes bacteria in the colon and rectum into acetaldehyde. Studies show this chemical causes cancer in lab animals.
2. Decreases nutrient absorption—your body needs the B vitamin folate to help it produce and maintain new cells. Alcohol may reduce your ability to absorb folate in foods. And low folate levels can increase your risk of breast and colorectal cancers.
3. Sparks hormone changes—alcohol may raise your estrogen levels. Because this hormone regulates breast tissue growth, it may impact breast cancer risk.
4. Triggers harmful chemical reactions—ACS said alcohol may help toxic chemicals enter cells in your digestive tract. It may also slow your ability to break down and flush away these harmful chemicals.
The ACS said there may be other as yet unknown ways that alcohol may contribute to cancer. For this reason, the group recommends limitations of no more than 2 drinks per day for men, and 1 drink a day for women. Maybe I’m straitlaced, but to me that sounds like plenty of drinking.
In addition to this establishment take on alcohol and cancer, I’d also note that a shot of alcohol is a big shot of sugar. As regular readers of this newsletter know, sugar is just about the most pro-cancer food you can eat.
Aside from the fact that many alcoholic drinks are high in sugar, the alcohol itself is quickly metabolized into sugar in your body. This means any alcoholic drink sends your sugar levels soaring, even if it’s a drink we don’t normally consider sweet, such as scotch or beer.
I always marvel when I meet a diabetic who has enough will power to push away desserts, but drinks alcohol as if it’s harmless. The alcohol has to go, too. Think of it as liquid sugar. As for people who have cancer, both alcohol and sugar are out of the question.
Even if the scientific studies produce a mixed bag of results… and you find that you’re uncertain about what to believe…
…one thing for sure is that it certainly won’t HARM you to limit your alcohol consumption.
And if you drink red wine because of its proven cardiovascular benefits—remember that you also achieve these results with a healthy diet and a regular exercise program.
Resveratrol is thought to be the component in red wine that’s responsible for most of the health benefits. Take it as a supplement and avoid any possible downside associated with heavy drinking.
That’s an ‘ounce of prevention’ you can feel good about adding to your glass!