Most of us are aware of the risks related to drinking alcohol, such as hangovers, alcohol poisoning, and impaired driving. But did you know that drinking alcohol can also increase your risk of cancer? If you didn’t know, you’re not alone. 4 out of 5 Americans don’t know that drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer.
Read on to learn more about the connection between drinking alcohol and cancer, and how you can protect your loved ones from alcohol-related health risks.
Drinking alcohol increases cancer risk
There is significant research showing that drinking alcohol can cause certain kinds of cancer. The World Health Organization found that 750,000, or 4%, of cancers diagnosed worldwide in 2020 were alcohol-related.
Alcohol-related cancers include:
- Head and neck cancer
- Mouth and throat cancer
- Liver cancer
- Esophageal (connecting the throat with the stomach) cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colon and rectal cancer
The more alcohol one drinks, the more at risk they are for developing these kinds of cancer. While drinking heavily causes the most risk, even just one drink per day can increase the risk of cancer.
Why does alcohol increase cancer risk?
There are a few reasons why alcohol can increase cancer risk:
- Alcohol is broken down by the body into a chemical called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde which can cause cell damage to increase, and this can, in turn, lead to cancer.
- Alcohol can also interfere with our hormones. For example, it may increase the levels of estrogen in the body, which is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Additionally, cancer has the potential to interfere with the body’s ability to absorb essential cancer-preventing nutrients, such as folate. Low folate levels are associated with a higher risk of developing some cancers.