Ask Your Doctor: ALCOHOL AND CANCER

anguillian
By anguillian June 12, 2017 12:19

 

 

 

Many of us are aware of the dangers of excessive alcohol use, but most of the resident of Anguilla are not aware that alcohol is a direct cause of at least seven common cancers prevalent on the island. Of even greater concern is that even moderate consumption of alcohol is a risk factor for a number of these cancers.

Alcohol use in Anguilla
Residents of Anguilla, like those in other countries of the world, have consumed alcohol beverages for many years despite the many health complications. Recent studies should cause many of us to pause and reflect on our use of alcohol. According to a recent extensive review of multiple research studies, alcohol consumption has been conclusively shown to be the direct cause of at least seven types of cancer.
While a drinker’s risk increases relative to the amount of alcohol consumed over time, and the highest risks are associated with the heaviest drinking, what is surprising – and more than a little troubling – is that even people consuming low to moderate amounts seem to be at risk.

What cancers are associated with alcohol use?
There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others. Even without complete knowledge of biological mechanisms of how alcohol causes cancer, the epidemiological evidence can support the judgment that alcohol causes cancer of the oropharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast.
Growing evidence suggested that alcohol was also likely to cause skin, prostate and pancreatic cancer. It appears that a drinker’s risk increased in relation to the amount consumed.
A recent study also found that people who smoke and drink are at even greater risk of developing cancer.
There was some evidence that drinkers who gave up alcohol could reverse their risk of laryngeal, pharyngeal and liver cancer, and that their risk reduced the longer they avoided alcohol.

Alcohol and head and neck cancers – Several studies have shown that alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for certain cancers of the head and neck, particularly cancer of the mouth, pharynx and larynx. People who consume 50 or more grams of alcohol per day (approximately 3.5 or more drinks per day) have at least a two to three times greater risk of developing these cancers than nondrinkers. The risk is also increased if the person is a smoker.
Oesophageal cancer-Alcohol – consumption is a major risk factor for a particular type of oesophageal cancer called esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Alcohol consumption is an independent risk factor for, and a primary cause of, liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). (Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus are the other major causes of liver cancer.)
Breast cancer – Many studies have consistently found an increased risk of breast cancer and increasing alcohol intake.
The recent study-The Million Women Study in the United Kingdom (which included more than 28,000 women with breast cancer) provided a more recent, risk for breast cancer. An estimate of breast cancer risk at low to moderate levels of alcohol consumption: every 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day was associated with a 12 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer.
Colorectal cancer: Alcohol consumption is associated with a modestly increased risk of cancers of the colon and rectum.
Can a person’s genes affect his/her risk of alcohol-related cancers?
Yes. A person’s risk of alcohol-related cancers is influenced by his/her genes, specifically the genes that encode enzymes involved in metabolizing (breaking down) alcohol. Not everyone who drinks alcohol will develop cancer. Your genes might help explain this. Researchers have found that some cancers are more common in people who drink more alcohol than others.

Decreasing alcohol use
There is growing evidence that the use of alcohol among both adults and young people in Anguilla is alarmingly high. Much more is needed to end this alcohol epidemic in our island.
While abstaining from alcohol is the safest bet, here are some tips to lower alcohol-related cancer risk:
• Have some alcohol-free days every week to cut down on the total amount of alcohol consume
• Swap every second or every third alcoholic drink for a healthier beverage such as water
• Choose smaller servings (e.g. get singles not doubles and use smaller glasses)
• Substitute with less alcoholic versions of drinks
• Do not keep a stock of alcohol at home
Our health and education officials and opinion leaders should initiate more education campaigns to tackle widespread public ignorance about how closely alcohol and cancer are connected.
There is also an urgent need for more research in Anguilla to determine the true impact of alcohol use on the people of Anguilla.
Conclusion
There is now conclusive evidence that alcohol is the cause of at least seven cancers (cancer of the oropharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast). Some of these cancers are very common in Anguilla. Like smoking, alcohol use must be part of a widespread campaign on the island in the fight against cancer.

Ask Your Doctor is a health education column and is not a substitute for medical advice from your physician. The reader should consult his or her physician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field are ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.

Dr Brett Hodge MB BS DGO MRCOG, is an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist and Family Doctor who has over thirty-two years in clinical practice. Dr Hodge has a medical practice in The Johnson Building in The Valley (Tel: 264 4975828).

anguillian
By anguillian June 12, 2017 12:19

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