Alcohol is among the most important preventable risk factor for cancer, apart from excessive body weight and tobacco use. Paolo Boffetta mentions that several cancer-related deaths across the world can be attributed to alcohol, and hence it is important to be well-acquainted with the risk it presents. Boffetta is an Italian epidemiologist who is researching on cancer. He has majorly worked on the understanding of the role of alcohol and smoking in cancer development. He has experience in working as a research assistant at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit of the University of Turin.
As people drink alcohol, their body breaks it down to a chemical known as acetaldehyde. According to Dr. Paolo Boffetta, this chemical can damage the DNA of a person and even prevent their body from repairing the damage. In many ways, DNA can be described as the instruction manual for the cells that controls its normal functions and growth. In case the DNA gets damaged, them a cell might start growing out of control and create a cancer tumor.
Typically, the more a person consumes alcohol, the greater does their odds of developing cancer become. Paolo Boffetta says that heavy drinkers, who have two or three drinks on a daily basis, especially have a high cancer risk. There are several types of cancers that have been linked to alcohol consumption. Here are some of them:
- Liver cancer: The association between alcohol consumption and liver cancer has been extensively researched and documented. Excessive, long-term drinking is a crucial risk factor for cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is basically a condition characterized by the scarring and inflammation of the liver. Over a span of time, healthy tissue is replaced by scar tissue in the liver, thereby impeding the ability of the organ to function properly. Having cirrhosis additionally increases the risk of developing cancer for a person to a significant extent.
- Breast cancer: Alcohol affects estrogen levels by changing the way the body metabolizes them. Estrogen levels, subsequently are linked to the development of breast cancer. Women who drink quite frequently may face a high risk of developing breast cancer.
- Oral cancer: According to certain studies, people who consume alcohol are six times more likely to be diagnosed with oral cancer, as opposed to those who do not. Research also shows that more than seventy percent of people coping with oral cancer are drinkers.
- Throat cancer: Dr. Paolo Boffetta mentions that this type of cancer develops in the pharynx and other structures of the throat. According to certain research, chronic alcohol consumption is linked with the development with throat cancer, and its risks considerably increases when combined with smoking.
People prone to drinking may develop squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus. Several studies have also linked colon cancer to heavy, long-term use of alcohol. Hence, to ensure their well-being, it is important that people try and limit their alcohol consumption.