A new report published in the journal Addiction shows that alcohol is a direct cause for many types of cancers, no matter how much or how little is actually consumed. The study goes a long way to combat the idea that somehow a small amount of daily alcohol can be helpful, as there are still consequences.
According to the study, people who drink just 2.6 beers or 18 ounces of wine a day are four to seven times more likely to have cancer of oropharynx, larynx and esophagus. These same people are 1.5 times more likely to develop cancer of the colon, rectum and breast. There is also evidence that alcohol can cause skin, prostate and pancreatic cancer. These conclusions were made after researchers investigated ten years’ worth of information collected by different cancer and health agencies.
“The highest risks are associated with the heaviest drinking, but a considerable burden is experienced by drinkers with low to moderate consumption,” explained Jennie Connor, the lead author of the study.
While the study unveils the cancer risks associated with drinking, it does not reveal why alcohol causes cancer. Some scientists believe it has something to do with acetaldehyde, the chemical that forms when alcohol is broken down in the body, and how it damages the DNA of cells in the mouth, throat, esophagus and liver.
Now that there is a more concrete connection between alcohol and cancer, some researchers are calling for the FDA to place the same type of warnings of bottles of alcohol as the warnings on packs of cigarettes. Connor also pointed out that some of the reported benefits of alcohol, like decreased chance of heart disease, pale in comparison to the risks of cancer. However, people who stop drinking can reduce their chances for these cancers and keep their risk at a minimum when they abstain from alcohol altogether.
For years, people have been told that a glass of wine a day could have health benefits. Based off of minimal research, the press and some in the medical community agreed that drinking in moderation was ok. However, it has been determined that drinking, even in moderate amounts, can still lead to cancer.
The latest information published in the BMJ has come after much more research and investigation into the health risks and behaviors of those who consume alcohol. Researchers hope that this information will be replaced with the common misconceptions that small amounts of alcohol are healthy and prevent medical problems.
Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital came together to interpret data taken from almost 130,000 participants. They monitored the health histories of men and women who drank varying amounts of alcohol. The researchers were not surprised that those who drank large amounts of alcohol on a daily basis were more likely to develop health problems such as colon, breast and oral cancer.
What was surprising, however, was that even those who drank more moderate amounts of alcohol were still likely to suffer from the same complications as heavy drinkers. Women who have one drink a day are 13% more likely to develop cancer than those who do not drink daily. Additionally, the chances grew exponentially for those who smoked, even after quitting.
This information is useful because drinking is common in many social settings. There are other studies that show people who consume alcohol in social settings often drink alone as they get older. Because older adults face more health concerns due to the normal aging process, they are at an even greater risk when they drink alcohol every day.
Hopefully more health practitioners will heed this latest research and warn people about even moderate amounts of daily alcohol consumption.