By now, you’re probably aware that alcohol can do some pretty significant damage to your body. Drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol can and will do some lasting damage to your system if you’re not careful. Of course, almost everyone is going to have a drink here and there. Aside from the well-known issues associated with alcohol consumption, you should know that drinking has a direct relationship with one of the deadliest diseases in the world: cancer.
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest alcohol is carcinogenic, but we don’t often think of it as being as destructive or dangerous as other substances like tobacco. A new study, conducted by researcher Jennie Connor at the department of preventive and social medicine at the University of Otago in New Zealand, suggests that it’s time we take the carcinogenic properties of alcohol more seriously.
Alcohol as a carcinogen — further evidence
A young man chugs alcohol, which is linked to several types of cancer. | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Published in the journal Addiction, Connor’s research shows that drinking is more or less a direct cause of no fewer than seven types of cancers. Again, we already knew alcohol consumption increased the likelihood of a cancer diagnosis, but Connor’s work says that 5.8% of the world’s cancer deaths can be attributed to drinking — a figure we didn’t have before.
“There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others. Current estimates suggest that alcohol-attributable cancers at these sites make up 5.8% of all cancer deaths world-wide,” the study concludes. “Confirmation of specific biological mechanisms by which alcohol increases the incidence of each type of cancer is not required to infer that alcohol is a cause.”
Let’s take a quick look at the seven specific types of cancers Connor’s study points out, along with other terrible side effects of alcohol consumption.
1. Liver cancer
Drinking can lead to liver cancer. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Drinking does damage to your liver; there was never much doubt about that. And we already knew that booze can have a potent carcinogenic effect on the liver. This study simply adds another log to the proverbial bonfire, as far as evidence goes. If you care about your liver, it would serve you well to moderate your drinking habits.
2. Colon cancer
Heavy drinking can increase your colon cancer risk. | American Cancer Society/Getty Images
Colon health isn’t something you hear much about, especially compared to all the campaigns focusing on breast or prostate health awareness. But aside from cancers of the lung, colon cancer is the second-most-deadly form you can be diagnosed with. For that reason, you’ll want to take the risks very seriously.
3. Breast cancer
Drinking could possibly lead to breast cancer. | iStock.com/AND-ONE
If you’ve been on Earth for any amount of time over the past decade or so, you’ve seen all of the work being done to raise awareness about breast cancer, and the risks and dangers associated with it. Well, it turns out that alcohol consumption is one of those risks.
4. Rectal cancer
Lower your risk of rectal cancer by avoiding alcohol. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Cancers of the rectum are closely associated with those of the bowel and the colon. But they’re not exactly the same, and there are some differences in the treatment courses for each. If you’d rather not deal with either, staying away from booze should be added to your list.
5. Laryngeal cancer
Drinking can damage your larynx. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images
When you drink, you’re putting your larynx in harm’s way — almost directly. Your larynx is what many people may commonly call a voice box. It’s the structure in your throat that holds your vocal cords and passages to your lungs. Needless to say, it’s pretty important, and if you want to avoid a diagnosis, steer clear of alcohol.
6. Esophageal cancer
Your esophagus could be in danger as well. | ACS/Getty Images
As far as your neck and throat go, the larynx isn’t the only biological structure in danger from your drinking habits. The esophagus, or the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach, is also at risk. As booze passes from bottle to belly, it seems there’s some real damage being done.
7. Oropharyngeal cancer
Drinking can put you at serious risk. | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/Cancer Research UK
Last but not least, the oropharynx is another part of the throat and digestive system that’s put at serious risk by drinking alcohol. The base of your tongue, your tonsils, and other parts of your throat are all a part of the oropharynx. If you can’t imagine life without those, then cutting out alcohol would be a wise choice — at least according to the available research.
Next: Cancer isn’t the only thing you have to worry about.
Your skin suffers
Your skin will not thank you for your alcohol consumption. | iStock.com
If you notice your skin doesn’t look so great in the morning, you can point your finger at the greasy food, or you could just blame it all on the alcohol. AOL notes your skin gets extremely dry after drinking because alcohol interferes with the production of a hormone called vasopressin. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, this hormone helps balance fluid levels. Since the production of vasopressin production slows when you consume alcohol, your kidneys release water, explaining why you always feel like you have to go to the bathroom. Eventually, this causes dehydration and dull skin.
You get hungry
A late-night snack? | Anastasiia Kuznetcova/iStock/Getty Images
A professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro tells Popular Science drinking alcohol increases your brain’s production of galanin, a type of neurotransmitter that increases your appetite for fatty foods. Since alcohol disrupts proper brain function when you’ve had too much, you’re more likely to give in to temptation for unhealthy foods. And once you eat these fatty foods, that causes a chain reaction by producing even more galanin. This explains why a juicy burger always seems like a great idea at the end of the night, and why a greasy breakfast the next day is so appealing.
Your liver slows down
Man trying to recover from drinking too much | iStock.com/tommaso79
You know too much alcohol is bad for your liver, but do you know why? Located above the stomach and right below the diaphragm, the liver is the second largest organ in the body, and it plays a major role in metabolism. It’s also responsible for changing harmful substances you consume into non-toxic ones that won’t cause damage. However, during this process, the body creates a chemical compound called acetaldehyde. The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services says your liver turns the compound into an acid, which can enter your bloodstream. This is what causes feelings of nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and those other unwanted side effects in the morning.
Lasting liver damage
Illustration of male liver anatomy | iStock.com/sankalpmaya
Although liver disease is something that develops over time, getting drunk often can contribute. According to the American Liver Foundation, there are three types of liver conditions you can get from drinking too much alcohol: alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic cirrhosis. While the first two are reversible, cirrhosis is not. It results in severe scarring and altered structure of the liver, which inhibits it from functioning normally. Liver disease is a serious issue, and symptoms are not always noticeable in the beginning stages. That’s why it’s important to drink responsibly and know your limits.
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