Americans Largely Unaware Of Alcohol’s Tie To Cancer Risks

Alcohol use is prevalent throughout the United States, but most people don’t know about or understand the health risks that come with regular drinking. A new study has shown that there is more to be done to educate citizens about alcohol’s ties to cancer.

Americans Largely Unaware Of Alcohol’s Tie To Cancer Risks

Although more than half of Americans consume alcohol each month, the majority of those who do know very little or nothing at all about how alcohol increases cancer risks. 

In fact, a portion of respondents in one study believed that drinking wine or beer even decreased cancer risks. 

The study, which was conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), highlights a serious need for better education in the U.S. about alcohol use and its health risks, including addiction.

Knowledge About Alcohol And Cancer Risks

Findings from the NCI study on Americans’ knowledge of alcohol-related cancer risks were recently published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Nearly 3,000 participants were asked what level of cancer risk they associated with wine, beer, or liquor consumption.

More than 50% of study respondents were regular consumers of alcohol, and 34% of that group reported believing that beer and wine had no effect on or even decreased cancer risks. 

The people who held these beliefs were more likely to continue consuming alcohol in the future. 

This shows a stark disparity between public knowledge and medical knowledge, but agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working to close the gap by promoting regular alcohol use screenings and funding more studies. 

Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Cancer?

There is consistent evidence documenting that alcohol can cause or contribute to a few different types of cancer. 

Cancers linked to alcohol include:

  • larynx, mouth, and throat cancer
  • liver cancer
  • breast cancer
  • colon and rectum cancer
  • esophagus cancer

The more alcohol a person consumes over their lifetime, the higher their risks are for developing one of these cancers. 

One study from 2009 found that around 3.5% of cancer deaths throughout the country were related to alcohol use. 

Alcohol contributes to cancer in several ways. After consumption, the body breaks alcohol down into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which can damage DNA and cause harmful cell growth. 

It can also decrease the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and other nutrients that are essential to maintaining overall health. 

Also, during the fermentation and brewing process, alcohol may be exposed to carcinogenic materials like asbestos. 

Alcohol And Other Health Risks

Alcohol has an effect on nearly every system within the body, including the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal tract, the nervous system, and more. 

Regular or heavy drinking decreases immune system function and can leave people more susceptible to disease, particularly in the first 24 hours after a binge drinking period of four or more drinks. 

Long-term health risks of alcohol use include: 

  • anxiety or depression 
  • insomnia 
  • appetite or weight changes 
  • memory problems 
  • pancreatitis 
  • liver disease 
  • diabetes 
  • chronic pain
  • nerve damage 
  • ulcers 
  • heart problems

Alcohol Use And Addiction

Although past information led people to believe mild or moderate drinking posed few health risks, it is now known that even infrequent drinking can affect the brain. 

This includes a risk of developing alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

AUD is a chronic but treatable condition that affects about 15 million Americans, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Signs of alcohol addiction include an inability to stop drinking despite negative consequences, often drinking more than intended, and having cravings for alcohol.

Because risks for certain types of cancer increase the more a person drinks alcohol, getting treated for AUD becomes even more important.

Find Help For Alcohol Addiction Today

If you or a family member or another loved one is facing alcohol abuse, don’t wait to seek treatment. Reach out to us today to learn more about your recovery options. 

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