Recent studies show a big health plus for people who don’t drink in “Dry January” or think about drinking less booze. A new report in The New England Journal of Medicine says if you cut down on drinks, you could be less likely to get some types of cancer like those in the mouth or throat.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), under the umbrella of the World Health Organization, reviewed lots of studies. What they discovered is quite simple – if you cut down on drinking or quit altogether, your risk for cancers in the mouth and throat can seriously decrease.
- Risk Reduction Statistics: Ceasing alcohol for 5-9 years reduces oral cancer risk by 34%, while a 10-19 year abstinence lowers it by 55%. For esophageal cancer, the risk drops by 15% after 5-15 years and 65% after 15 years or more without alcohol.
- Alcohol metabolizes into acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Eliminating alcohol intake prevents this harmful transformation.
- Alcohol’s genotoxicity, or its ability to damage DNA, contributes to cancer development.
- Impact on the Immune System: Alcohol consumption affects the immune and inflammatory systems, adding to cancer risk.
Challenges in Research
One major challenge highlighted by Beatrice Lauby-Secretan, Ph.D., head of the IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention in France, is the scarcity of studies on the reduction in cancer risk associated with reduced alcohol consumption. This contrasts with the abundance of research on tobacco cessation.
Broader Impact of Alcohol on Cancer
Previous research has established that even low alcohol consumption increases the risk of several cancer types. The study’s findings reinforce this, showing that reducing alcohol intake can mitigate these risks.
- All alcoholic beverages, regardless of quality or price, are linked to an increased risk of cancer.
- Alcohol consumption is responsible for about 6% of all U.S. cancer diagnoses.
Medical oncologist Sudarsan Kollimuttathuillam, M.D., not involved in the study, emphasized the growing evidence linking alcohol use to increased cancer risk. He noted, “The associations and mechanisms are not yet fully understood, but include accumulated damage to DNA, the cells, and the liver.”
Guidelines and Recommendations
The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, covering 2020 to 2025, recommend keeping alcohol consumption under control. They say women should stick to just one drink daily, and men should cap it at two. “If you’re aiming to fend off cancer, drinking less is your best bet,” Dr. Kollimuttathuillam points out, “and skipping alcohol altogether tops the chart.”
Long-Term Commitment to Health
The research further indicates that short-term abstinence, such as participating in “Dry January,” might not be sufficient for a significant reduction in cancer risk. It underscores the importance of long-term or permanent reduction in alcohol consumption for tangible health benefits.
Global Health Perspective
Drinking alcohol is a big worry for health everywhere. It’s important to know there’s a link between drinking and getting cancer so we can make good public health plans. Teaching people and spreading the word can help bring down how much alcohol they drink and also cut down on cancer around the world.
Personal Health Choices
It’s wise for folks to think carefully about how much alcohol they drink. Talking to doctors, like cancer specialists, is a smart move. This is super helpful for those who have had cancer or are fighting it now. Changing what you eat, how much you move, and your drinking habits are key parts of stopping or tackling cancer.
In short, loads of studies agree that drinking alcohol can increase your risk of getting cancer. We need more research on other cancers, but what we know now should make people think about drinking less. It’s a big step in stopping cancer before it starts and keeping healthy. Getting the word out about how alcohol can cause cancer matters a lot. Drinking less is a big part of preventing cancer and should go along with eating right and exercising, especially if you’re at risk or already have cancer. Learn more about the study here.