July 2016, Dr. Jennie Connor, physician and chair in Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Otago Medical School in Dunedin, New Zealand, released the study Alcohol Consumption as a Cause of Cancer. The carcinogenic effects of the alcohol start with the very first drink … beer, wine, vodka … alcohol.
This study was a review of thousands of other studies on cancer and alcohol, it is not one lone study at all. Bringing together all of these studies from around the world, confirmed the very long suspected conclusion that alcohol causes cancer in at least 7 sites in the body, and probably more. It also connected that the old addage "a glass a wine a day is good for the heart" … is just not true.
Cancer is thought to be only 8% -10% genetic. The remainder is thought to be exposures to mutagens (exposures that have the power to reprogram the DNA of our cells) in our lives. Cancer is the "wiring" so to speak of our cells – our DNA has been reprogrammed and the cell's function goes awry.
Unknowingly, we are exposed to mutagens in the form of carcinogens, toxins, radiation, viruses, bacteria daily. However, there are numerous exposures that are within our control. Alcohol, from the very first drink is a carcinogen that people do not want to accept. And BTW, sobriety has nothing to do with the mutagenic potential. Even for a person who seemingly "handles their liquor", the carcinogenic aspect is no less threatening.
The evidence of a causal role of alcohol in cancer is unfortunately smothered by the once thought protective effects of alcohol on cardiovascular disease. In these same studies, there is great doubt placed on this old belief. And lets face it – we have many ways to live a heart healthy life including clean nutrition, exercise and physical activity. Its absurd, when we have thousands of studies that support the causal role of alcohol in cancer, alcohol and neurotoxicity, liver disease, the compounded effects of alcohol and smoking, obesity, diabetes … to think it could actually be good for the heart .
It is complicated and multifaceted how alcohol causes cancer: Briefly, here are just a few:
- The break down of the ethanol in alcohol to acetaldehyde is a toxic chemical and damages both DNA and proteins
- Oxidative Stress: Another byproduct of ethanol metabolism – free radical production
- Impairing our ability to utilize precious nutrients including vitamin A; B complex, such as folate; vitamin C; vitamin D; vitamin E; and carotenoids
- Increasing blood levels of estrogen linked to the risk of breast cancer … an even greater concern for younger women drinking alcohol
- Alcoholic beverages, such as wine contain a variety of carcinogenic contaminants that are introduced during various stages of growth and production, such as nitrosamines, asbestos fibers, phenols, glyphosphate and hydrocarbons.
- Alcohol impedes immune, liver and digestive function, including blocking neutrophil action … our bodies depend on these defenses to protect us from the damage of alcohol
Denial is a psychological defense mechanism that helps a person avoid a potentially distressing truth.
"Moderation" and "social drinking" are misleading terms and usually used as rationalization. Studies are showing us, for many more reasons than listed above, these terms and beliefs need to be replaced with reality. Just as we have warning signs on a package of cigarettes, we need to start getting the word out of the realities of alcohol.
This is about choices. It is our duty to be active participants in our health management. Please make choices based on current scientific data, not on "they says" and myths science has repeatedly shown to be incorrect.
Alcohol causes cancer, please listen to an interview with the author of the study