Alcohol abuse can have countless impacts on a person — medically, socially, financially, and professionally.
In honor of Cancer Control Month, we’re exploring a topic that all your employees should understand: how alcohol use can affect cancer risk.
How is Cancer Related to Alcohol Use?
According to the American Cancer Society, alcohol is a known contributor to the following cancers:
- Cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, and esophagus: Although alcohol use alone increases your cancer risk in these areas, drinking and smoking combined raises the risk even more. Alcohol acts as a solvent, basically allowing tobacco chemicals to infiltrate the cells lining your digestive tract. The alcohol can also slow down cell repair in the digestive tract and irritate the mouth and throat, further increasing cancer risk.
- Liver cancer: Long-term alcohol use contributed to increased liver cancer risk. This is because heavy use causes liver scarring and inflammation. The liver cells will work to repair this damage, which sometimes results in cancer-causing errors in the DNA.
- Colorectal cancer: Though the link between alcohol use and increased colorectal cancer risk is more evident in men than women, there is some evidence to suggest the link in both sexes. Alcohol increases colorectal cancer risk because the bacteria in these areas sometimes converts alcohol to acetaldehyde. This chemical has been proven to cause cancer in some lab animals.
- Breast cancer: Just a few drinks per week can put you at higher risk for breast cancer, particularly women with inadequate folate levels, since alcohol prevents the body from absorbing folate from the diet. Scientists also think that the increased cancer risk is due to the way alcohol affects estrogen levels, which in turn affects breast tissue growth. Generally, consuming less alcohol can help women lower their breast cancer risk.
In all of the cancers listed above, the cancer risk increases as the alcohol use increases — and it doesn’t matter what type of alcohol is consumed.
Guidelines for Alcohol Use
The American Cancer Society’s nutrition and physical activity guidelines establish the right levels of alcohol consumption for cancer prevention:
- Men should limit alcohol use to 2 drinks per day.
- Women’s alcohol use should not exceed 1 drink per day.
- Both men and women should avoid binge drinking.
- Although moderate alcohol use has been linked to lowering risk of heart disease, adults who do not currently drink alcohol are not advised to start, as there are many other ways to lower heart disease risk other than alcohol consumption.
Monitor Alcohol Use Among Your Employees
Educating your employees on alcohol use and cancer risk is key, as is monitoring their alcohol use to ensure that your workplace remains healthy. Test Smartly Labs provides alcohol testing as well as workplace wellness assistance if you want to incorporate cancer risk education into your programming. To learn more about our services or to get started today, locate your nearest Test Smartly Labs!