Whenever I talk about how alcohol is a carcinogen (a cancer causer), people have one of four reactions; their eyes glaze over, they go a funny shade of pale, they say “No it doesn’t!” or they nod sadly and say “Yes, I know…” The #1 health-related fear for most people is cancer. Few people realise alcohol directly causes cancer and is one of the most potent cancer causers we have in modern society.
Alcohol has been classified by WHO as a class 1 Carcinogen, meaning it is a cancer causer in the same company as asbestos, mustard gas, formaldehyde and plutonium.
“The more you drink, the higher your risk of cancer. The less you drink, the less at risk you are of developing cancer. It is as simple as that”
Naomi Allen, Cancer Epidemiologist, Oxford University, UK.
The biggest damage caused by alcohol is cancer; breast cancer, liver cancer, bowel cancer, mouth cancer and many others. The challenge we have is that nobody talks about ‘alcohol and cancer’ the way we do about ‘cigarettes and cancer’ because alcohol is so deeply soaked into society. Talking about alcohol as a problem makes many of us very uncomfortable.
“25% of alcohol-related deaths are actually cancer deaths. The ethanol in alcohol is a group one carcinogen, like asbestos”
Professor Doug Sellman, National Addiction Centre, Otago, New Zealand.
‘Mild’ or ‘moderate’ alcohol intake is causing cancer deaths every day
- Over 13% of total global cancer is caused by alcohol
- One daily drink causes 34,000 preventable deaths a year worldwide
- A Kiwi dies almost daily from a preventable alcohol-related cancer
- Over 30% of all alcohol-attributable deaths in NZ are due to cancer
- This is higher than all the other chronic diseases combined
- Just two drinks per day raises your colon cancer risk by 60% and triples your mouth cancer risk
- Just one drink daily raises your oesophageal cancer risk by 30%
- Men consuming three drinks a day raise risk for gastric cancer more than 700% and pancreatic cancer by 60%
- Mild drinkers are 60% more likely to develop mental health problems
How the damage is done
Researchers suggest that the effects of acetaldehyde (made by your liver every time you drink), oxidative stress (one of the initiation starting points for cancer) and epigenetic changes (your genetic expression), are to blame for the devastating cancer and liver damage in the human body.
There is no safe intake of alcohol if you are concerned about your cancer risk.
Jason wishes to deeply thank, acknowledge and recognise the effort and contribution that the PIF Foundation has provided on a voluntary basis since 2014, as we educated, motivated and inspired change that helps transform the health, vitality and longevity of people all over the world.