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,

Healthy Happy Hour - Part II

In case you missed it, last week focused on hosting At Home Happy Hour (including one of my absolute favorite recipes). And it sparked some great questions, especially about alcohol.

So Healthy Happy Hour Part II will be devoted to the controversial topic of alcohol. This is an area many writers shy from, but I feel it is important to share the facts so you can make the best and most educated decision possible.

I want to take a moment and acknowledge people’s comfort and relationship to alcohol vary greatly. We each have our reasons and that is perfectly fine.

My goal is not to change your mind or convince you to start/stop drinking. My goal is to present you with the current evidence and data surrounding alcohol use so you can decide for yourself. Because as I detail, there are two sides to every coin.

The Alcohol Paradox

I suspect you've been exposed to what I call the alcohol paradox. At times, you may read in the news alcohol has heart healthy benefits (hello, red wine). Other times, you may hear alcohol has deleterious effects. So which is true?


Let me explain.

Alcohol: Friend?

Several studies aimed to determine the health impact of alcohol on heart disease. The verdict is light to moderate alcohol consumption decreases the risk of heart disease by 40 to 70% (more on definitions of light to moderate below). A 40 to 70% decrease is certainly significant.

Alcohol: Foe?

Alcohol consumption, even moderate, is shown to increase the risk of certain cancers. The more one drinks, the higher the risk. Increased risk of colorectal, oral cavity, liver, and esophagus cancer is linked to alcohol consumption. In women, breast cancer risk increases, even with light alcohol consumption.

Other deleterious effects? Alcohol is associated with increased blood pressure, violence, and suicide rates.

Heavy Drinking and Binge Drinking

Heavy and binge drinking is associated with increased death. Enough said.

Which Type of Alcohol is Best?

There is no current definitive answer to which type of alcohol is best. With the current evidence, it appears wine is associated with the most beneficial effects. However, there is evidence to suggest beer is also beneficial.

Be mindful of mixers that can sabotage your health. Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other wellness sabotagers can be hiding in your drinks.

What Defines Light, Moderate, and Heavy Alcohol Intake?

Definitions of alcohol intake categories can vary. The following are general definitions.

And what defines a drink? In the United States, one drink is 14 to 15 g of alcohol. This translates to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor.

To Drink or Not to Drink

The decision to drink is entirely a personal one. You know your personal and family history the best. Combine that with the evidence I provided and you can make an educated decision on whether to drink or to abstain.

The Healthy Happy Hour Drink: With or Without Alcohol

To help you round out your At Home Happy Hour menu, I am providing you with a signature drink recipe. It nicely complements last week’s Perfect Guacamole and 3 Ingredient Tortilla Chips. This one can be made with alcohol or without, to your preference.


Serves: 2


1 cup fresh grapefruit juice

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

2 Tbsp raw organic honey

1 cup ice cubes

EITHER: 1/3 cup tequila (please, please, please don’t skimp on quality) OR 1/2 cup sparkling water/club soda

Coconut or date sugar to rim the glasses

  1. Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and stir well.

  2. Sugar the rims of two glasses. Do this by putting a small amount of coconut or date sugar on a plate. Wet the rim of an empty glass by dipping in water. Then dip the rim into the plate with coconut or date sugar.

  3. Add half the ice to each glass. Pour liquid over the top and serve immediately.

Cheers (with your alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink) and enjoy the holiday weekend!



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