Alcohol and especially chronic alcohol abuse is known to cause a myriad of health problems including cirrhosis of the liver and heart disease but few people realize how much of a connection there is between alcohol and certain types of cancer. Alcoholism is not traditionally considered a major cause of cancer but studies actually show a clear link to the disease especially in the case of breast cancer.
Research has shown that one in five of all alcohol-related deaths are due to cancer and breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women. It could be important for more people to understand that alcohol can increase women's risk for developing breast cancer.
Factors Involved in Cancer
There can be many different factors that contribute to a person developing a form of cancer. There are issues of genetic predisposition, diet, lifestyle and environmental factors that all can play a role in types of cancer. There is plenty of evidence that suggests drinking alcohol can increase the risk for breast cancer.
Alcohol consumption is not a main cause of the disease and chronic drinking does not necessarily guarantee that a person will develop a type of cancer like breast cancer but it does contribute to their risk. Other risks can be family members who have cancer, a lack of exercise or an unhealthy diet. Moderate alcohol use may not affect a person's risk but long term alcohol consumption over a lifetime plays a role in the development of different types of cancer.
Since there are many other factors that come into play when a person does develop cancer, the overall causation of alcohol to breast cancer is about 4 percent. To avoid the risks of alcohol to leading to disease, the government recommends that women limit their consumption to 2-3 drinks per day and men limit to 3-4 drinks a day.
Regular Drinking Increases Risk
Although the link between alcohol and breast cancer is not discussed much, the studies suggesting this problem are nothing new. Scientists have known for years that the risk of developing breast cancer increases when you drink. While women typically have a 9.5% chance of developing breast cancer, the risk increase to 10.6% if a person drinks alcohol every day.
The risk factor is a real issue for people who drink excessively on a regular basis over the course of their lifetime. Studies have shown that the relative risk increases by 7.1% for each 10 gram of alcohol that you drink which amounts to slightly over one drink a day. Alcohol has proven to increase the risk of breast cancer even more than smoking which on its own does not affect the risk.
The exact reason why alcohol affects the risk is not fully understood but one of the contributing issues is the fact that alcohol breaks down into acetaldehyde which can cause genetic mutations. The change in the DNA sequence can trigger a response from the body leading to the development of cancer cells. Another possible reason for the increased risk is that alcohol is thought to increase the production of estrogen in women.
The hormone estrogen can make a cancer cell more likely to multiply out of control in cases of breast cancer. Alcohol can also alter the immune system and contribute to nutritional deficiencies making it harder for the body to fight cancerous cells. While alcohol is a known risk factor in developing breast cancer, it is one of many factors, some of which can be out of a person's control.
Age and genetic issues can make a significant contribution to the risk. Reducing alcohol intake, however, can help eliminate at least a portion of the risk for women developing this disease.