How many social situations for adults are alcohol-free? Most work parties, events with friends, meals at restaurants, and big life celebrations include alcoholic beverages. Drinking is a routine part of life, yet many of us partake without knowing about the potential harm to our health.
We understand the immediate risks of intoxication, which range from poor choices and lack of control to the potential for injury and accidents. After all, alcohol impairs our thinking and physical coordination. But the impact of drinking extends beyond any single moment. Many people not aware that alcohol consumption increases the risk of getting several kinds of cancer.
What is the link between alcohol and cancer?
Having one drink at dinner or at a party is unlikely to cause much harm. But routinely having more than one or two drinks per day raises your cancer risk.
The main carcinogenic component of alcohol is ethanol, which is contained in every type of alcoholic drink. Ethanol damages cells and makes them more prone to becoming malignant. When combined with smoking, the rate of cell damage multiplies and the risk of cancer is further increased.
Here are the cancers linked to alcohol use:
- Cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box and esophagus
- Liver cancer
- Colon and rectal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Possibly, cancers of the pancreas and stomach
The higher the alcohol consumption, the higher the risk of cancer. For example, the World Health Organization has found that a woman increases her risk of breast cancer by 50 percent when drinking four glasses of wine per day. That risk jumps to 130 percent when drinking eight glasses per day.
The good news is the relationship also works in reverse: reducing drinking reduces the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer.
How can I monitor how much I drink?
One of the best ways to ensure that you drink moderately is to understand a standard-sized drink. The American Cancer Society recommends limiting alcohol to no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. The recommendation for women is lower because of their smaller size and because their bodies tend to break down alcohol more slowly.
But what is one drink?
- 12 ounces of beer
- 5 ounces of wine
- 5 ounces of hard liquor
If you drink only once or twice per week, the per-day recommendation doesn’t get added together. Binge drinking – defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men over a few hours – also raises the risk for alcohol-related cancers. So there’s no “saving up” several drinks while staying within the recommendations.
What are some simple ways to reduce drinking?
The first is to be aware of the health risks! Also, test your understanding of the recommended limits (what does five ounces of wine look like?) so it becomes simple to measure your intake.
Here are additional tips to help reduce your alcohol consumption:
- Set specific goals for yourself – when, where and how much to drink.
- Choose a few days of the week to be alcohol-free.
- Let your friends know you have set a limit and ask them to help you meet it.
- Avoid situations where you tend to drink heavily – and people who encourage you to.
- Learn how to make (and order) festive alcohol-free beverages.
- Look for and host alcohol-free social events.
Make moderation your goal. Remember, any reduction in alcohol consumption reduces your risk of developing alcohol-linked cancer.
Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre
46 Point Finger Road, Paget
(441) 236 – 1001