Raising the Risks – Alcohol and Cancer

Cancer and AlcoholWithout the knowledge of responsible service of alcohol, there are many health risks that surround the abuse of alcohol. The potential to develop Cancer is just one and applies to all, due to the fact that there are a range of causes and risks; however, some people are more prone to cancer because of their genetics or lifestyle.

Contributing factors to the development of Cancer include obesity and alcohol abuse. In Australia, approximately 5000 cases of cancer (5% of all cancers diagnosed) are attributable to the long-term use of alcohol.

Convincing evidence shows that alcohol use increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, bowel (in men) and breasts (in women), and probable evidence that it increases the risk of bowel cancer (in women) and liver cancer. The increased risk of developing these cancers is largely determined by the frequency and volume of alcohol consumed. Cancer is the most common cause of death for females aged 25 to 44, and in men and women aged 45 and over.

Drinking alcohol can also carries the risk of developing Breast Cancer in women of all ages. More importantly, it further increases the risk of developing breast cancer in women with other risk factors for the disease such as lifestyle, family history, medical history, reproductive history, hormone replacement therapy, obesity and exposure to cancer-causing compounds or carcinogens.

There are relative risks for women aged 15 – 60 years, the developing Cancer by the level of drinking. For those not drinking alcohol at all, the risk of developing Breast Cancer is 6.45 people in every 100. Those who drink one (1) standard drink per day, the relative risk multiplies by 1.08 to 6.96 in every 1000 will develop Breast Cancer. Women who consume two (2) standard drinks per day, the relative risk multiplies by 1.17 to 7.54 people in every 1000 will develop Breast Cancer and so on, with risks of contracting cancer relative to the amount of alcohol consumed.

Drinking alcohol heavily or excessively can cause your liver to become inflamed, causing alcoholic hepatitis which is a disease that can result in liver failure and death. Though this is reversible for people who stop drinking when diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis, continued drinking can permanently scar and damage the liver resulting in liver cirrhosis, a treatable disease but irreversible and one which increases a person’s risk of developing liver cancer. To reduce the risk of liver damage and developing liver cancer, only drink one (1) or two (2) standard alcoholic drinks per day as recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

As smoking is also a leading cause of contracting cancers, when you consume heavy amounts of alcohol regularly and smoke cigarettes – you significantly increase your risk of developing these cancers, especially cancers of the mouth and throat.

Although it is not necessarily only heavy drinkers can contract Cancer, some light-to-moderate drinkers also develop the disease – suggesting that your genetic makeup may also affect your risk of developing cancer. For example, the enzymes in your liver, which metabolise alcohol and its breakdown product, acetaldehyde, may function differently in different people, so that in some there will be higher levels of acetaldehyde accumulating, thereby potentially increasing the risk of Cancer.

It is important to ensure that you take all responsible steps to reduce your risks of developing Cancer. Health professionals recommend your alcohol intake be at or below the National Health and Medical Research Council’s recommendations of a maximum of two 10gm standard alcoholic drinks per day. Knowing how to measure standard drinks is important when reducing your risks of contracting cancer and other diseases from the abuse of alcohol. Other contributing health factors, strategies to reduce the risk to your health and how to know your standard drinks are all a part of responsible service of alcohol.

Club Training Australia’s Responsible Service of Alcohol online training course can provide you with all the know-how you need to service and drink safely and responsibly.