Is Happy Hour Giving You Cancer?

Don’t get mad at me, please.

Alcohol is a tricky subject and a rather polarizing one. You may love your drinks, totally oppose drinking, or fall somewhere in the middle.

Regardless of your personal (and likely valid) opinion, there is evidence about alcohol and cancer. Even though I know you may be mad about this post, I truly feel it’s my duty to share it with you.

Because, as we covered last week, cancer is preventable. Approximately 5 million (you know . . . the number five with six zeroes after it) cases of cancer can be prevented each year from lifestyle changes alone.

As one of my readers, you know I am absolutely passionate about preventing illness. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing I hadn’t shared an important part of the cancer prevention picture.

So today’s cancer prevention is all about alcohol.

How to Get Cancer: Drink Alcohol

Eek. I may have just caused you major stress/annoyance/incredulousness. But hear me out.

Alcohol can act as a carcinogen. It’s true. The mechanism of alcohol-mediated carcinogenesis has to do with the metabolites of ethanol. When you consume an alcoholic drink, the ethanol is changed into several metabolites. Acetaldehyde, one to the main metabolites, is a carcinogen. Further effects of alcohol consumption that are thought to contribute to cancer are redox changes, formation of free radicals, liver injury, elevation of sex hormones, folate deficiency, and an interaction with smoking.

There is compelling evidence to suggest alcohol consumption increases the risk of several specific cancers.  One of these cancers is breast. That’s right. Alcohol consumption is associated with a probable increased risk of breast cancer. See my chart below for specifics.

Cancer Chart.jpg

You may be wondering where this data came from. It came from over 100 scientific studies and meta-analyses. References can be found in this review article from 2016.  

So . . . What counts as an alcoholic beverage?

Good question. According to the studies used to correlate cancer and alcohol consumption, the following beverages were considered alcoholic:

  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Spirits
  • Ciders (alcoholic)
  • Local drinks (such as sake and mead)

Action of the Week: Decrease Your Alcohol Intake or Abstain

What does this information mean for you? It means that if you want to decrease your risk of cancer (specifically breast, mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophageal, liver, and colorectal), you want to limit your alcohol intake.

And studies show no alcohol is even better for some cancers.

How do you feel about this? Shocked? Annoyed? Onboard? Enlightened?

Whatever you are feeling, it’s okay.

And what you do next is entirely up to you.

But at least you can go forward armed with the scientific evidence.

If you drink and are open to cutting back, I have some ideas for you. Try a mocktail (cocktail without alcohol) instead of your normal cocktail. Have a shrub. Experiment with various sparkling waters. Add fresh fruit or herbs to your water. Get crazy. Have fun!

If you drink to relax, brainstorm other activities to help you destress. Maybe it’s meditation, taking an exercise class, baking, cooking, reading a book, or making a relaxing cup of tea. Trial things out and see what works for you.

Give it a try this week! And stay tuned for more on the cancer prevention series!

In health and happiness,
Skye