Alcohol and cancer risk: what’s the link?

Alcohol and cancer risk: what's the link?
What effects does alcohol have on  our body and how much does its consumption affect the risk of developing cancer? Is there a tolerable dose that protects us from risk? Let’s see it together!
Harmful use of alcohol causes approximately 3 million deaths worldwide each year and is considered the  fifth largest risk factor for global disease burden .
Everyone knows that alcohol is bad because it causes  cirrhosis of the liver ,  cardiovascular disease  and the majority of  deaths from road accidents , but few know that most alcohol-related deaths are attributable precisely to  oncological pathologies triggered by alcohol. its consumption .
In Italy, the habit of consuming alcohol represents the  second major “modifiable” cancer risk factor  , ie attributable to individual lifestyles and which therefore could be changed. It is preceded only by the habit of smoking and is followed by incorrect eating habits and excess body weight , or rather adipose tissue .

Alcohol carries out its  carcinogenic action in several ways :

It can cause  oxidative stress  with damage and alterations of the DNA and proteins of tissues or organs, it can  inhibit the correct repair of the DNA ,  cause an incorrect increase in  cell proliferation , problems of  nutritional malabsorption , and can induce an  increase in estrogen levels , also They are responsible for an increased risk of some forms of cancer .

The consumption of alcohol  also interacts with the consumption of tobacco by enhancing its carcinogenic effect , so much so that their simultaneous intake makes the associated risk considerably greater than the risk due to the consumption of alcohol or tobacco taken individually.


With these mechanisms, alcohol has resulted in a  risk factor for many tumor sites , primarily those of the upper aero- digestive tract (mouth, pharynx , larynx , oesophagus ) and of the breast , and then also of the last part of the intestine . of the stomach and liver .

Is there a safe level of consumption? Are some types of alcohol less risky?

Evidence indicates that the more alcohol a person drinks, the higher their risk of developing alcohol-related  cancer  , but the risk of some cancers also increases with less than one drink a day. While moderate alcohol intake within the low-risk dose was previously generally considered unproblematic, current evidence shows that  consuming any amount of alcohol increases the risk of some cancers , particularly those of the airways. upper digestive system and breast-feeding, for which  there is no safe minimum dose , but the risk is increased even with minimal alcohol intake.
Of alcoholic beverages  , what is carcinogenic is primarily the ethanol  contained in them, and then also  acetaldehyde , which is the main molecule that originates following the ingestion and digestion of ethanol. In addition, carcinogenic contaminants can be introduced during the production of alcoholic beverages   .
Ethanol is the primary form of alcohol found in all alcoholic beverages, and therefore all alcoholic beverages, regardless of type – beer , wine , spirits – increase risk and  no alcoholic beverage is less risky  in terms of impact on cancer risk .

For effective cancer prevention , the strongest recommendation according to all health research institutes is  not to drink  alcohol . People who choose to drink alcohol should limit their consumption to  no more than one standard alcoholic beverage per day for women and two per day for men .

 standard alcoholic drink  corresponds to a 33 centilitre medium-strength beer can, a 125ml medium-strength glass of wine or a 40ml shot of 40° spirits . Each of these solutions contains on average one alcohol unit, which corresponds to  12 grams of ethanol .
The recommendation, for those who choose to drink alcohol, not to exceed two drinks a day for men and a single drink a day for women,  is not intended as advice for an average over several days ,  but as a maximum quantity daily : not drinking alcohol during the week to concentrate drinking at the weekend would not keep the risk equally low.


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