Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

The A-Files, Alcohol A-Z for Alcohol Awareness Month: Cancer

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Twenty-six episodes of ‘The A-Files’ will run throughout Alcohol Awareness Month on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Alcohologist.com andAddictedMinds.com, among other web and social media sites. Episode C covers alcohol’s role as a carcinogen.

Nearly 30 years ago, in 1987, the first links between cancer and alcohol were determined. It’s a known carcinogen in the Department of Health and Human Services’s Report on Carcinogens based on evidence in human, not rodent, studies. Yet, today only one in ten users realize this drug is a carcinogen. Alcohol is implicated in several types of cancer. As a previous episode of The A-Files indicated, alcohol use is the ONLY dietary factor increasing the likelihood of getting breast cancer. It’s linked to seven other cancers: Colon, Liver, Stomach, Esophagus, Larynx, Pharynx and Mouth. Alcohol is the number two cause of oral cancers.

The metabolism of alcohol – a toxin – produces an even more hazardous toxin: Acetaldehyde. This chemical has been shown to create changes at the molecular level in human tissue, creating a greater susceptibility to the rapid cell growth that characterizes a cancer. People with the disease of alcoholism and “social” drinkers share the same cancer risk. The risk only goes up with the quantity of alcohol. In 2012 research published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research noted, “Alcohol’s role as a dietary carcinogen emerged quite clearly,” said the lead researcher. An older study put the numbers at an estimated 75 percent of esophageal cancers in the U.S. are attributable to chronic, excessive alcohol consumption and nearly 50 percent of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx are associated with heavy drinking.

Each of the eight cancers can be fatal, and about one in 25 cancer deaths in the U.S. is attributable primarily to alcohol use, while in many more, alcohol is a secondary cause. “Most deaths seemed to occur among people who consumed more than three alcoholic drinks a day, but those who consumed 1.5 beverages daily may account for up to one-third of those deaths,” says Dr. Timothy Naimi, an associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. “Alcohol is a big preventable cancer risk factor that has been hiding in plain sight.” Naimi’s Boston University study in the American Journal of Public Healthdetermined that alcohol-related cancer death took away an average of 18 potential years from a person’s life. Naimi said, “When it comes to cancer, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.”