Does alcohol damage the body?
The answer to this, as most of us know, is yes it can.
Unlike food, alcohol doesn’t need to be digested, so it can very quickly make its way into our bloodstream. Around 20% of alcohol is absorbed through the stomach, with the remaining 80% absorbed through the small intestine, and then small vessels within these organs carry it through to our blood.
While this can generate a pleasurable sensation, alcohol is a toxin, and several parts of the body must work hard to break down the alcohol in order to protect our vital organs.
It is the organs involved in the consumption and processing of alcohol that are at the greatest risk of developing cancer from regular alcohol overindulgence.
Which cancers are most often linked with alcohol consumption?
Scientific research has shown links between excessive alcohol consumption and certain types of cancer:
Head and neck cancer – studies have shown that people who drink 3.5+ units of alcohol per day are 2-3 times more likely to develop cancer in parts of the head and neck that come into contact with alcohol during consumption. These organs can include the throat, oral cavity and esophagus.
Liver cancer – alcohol is broken down and metabolized by an enzyme in the liver called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). As a result of the strain put on this organ by overindulgence, regular drinkers are at a greater risk of developing liver cancer.
Breast cancer – some studies have shown that women who drink at least 3 units of alcohol per day are 1.5 times more likely to develop breast cancer than a non-drinker.
Can cutting back on alcohol reduce my cancer risk?
As the examples we have shared demonstrate, there is a clear scientific link between serious alcohol consumption and certain types of cancer.
If you are concerned about your chances of getting cancer and you regularly drink to excess, it is far better to change your lifestyle now than bury your head in the sand and presume that you will be the person who defies the odds.
To personally assess whether your alcohol consumption could be increasing your cancer risk, monitor your drinking habits over the next week or two. Be honest about the frequency and volume of your alcohol consumption – is it time you looked at cutting back?
Although precise recommendations vary by country – on average most guidelines do not recommend drinking more than 7 alcoholic drinks per week (10 to 14 units). Plus, you should spread consumption over the entire week – not save them all up for the weekend!
Lowering your alcohol intake will have other positive health benefits in addition to reducing your risk of contracting certain types of cancer, such as giving you clearer skin, improving your sleep patterns and increasing your energy levels. Furthermore, people who are intoxicated are far more likely to sustain an injury!