Monday 20 March 2023

The truth about alcohol

The emerging medical consensus around alcohol is likely to come as a downer for drinkers. Here's everything you need to know:

Is moderate drinking harmless

For decades, doctors advised that consuming a daily alcoholic beverage or two is fine for one's health, or perhaps even beneficial. A growing body of research, however, indicates that toasting "To your health!" is an oxymoron. Studies have found that even modest drinking can have negative consequences, including raising the risk of cancer and heart attacks. "Risk starts to go up well below levels where people would think, '

Oh, that person has an alcohol problem,'" said Dr. Tim Naimi, director of the University of Victoria's Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research. This emerging consensus comes amid a rise in alcohol consumption during the pandemic, as Americans sought an escape from despair and boredom. Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Stanley Hazen said that, in light of new research, he will advise his patients that even the current U.S. guidelines for moderation — two drinks a night for men and one a night for women — might be risky. "I am going to be recommending cutting back on alcohol," Hazen said.

How high is the risk of cancer

Alcohol contributes to more than 75,000 new cancer cases per year in the U.S. and nearly 19,000 annual cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. When humans consume alcohol, they metabolize it into acetaldehyde. This toxic chemical can damage DNA, enabling the out-of-control cell growth that creates cancerous tumors. Alcohol is known to be a direct cause of seven types of cancer: oral cavity, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), liver, breast, and colorectal. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, moderate drinkers are 1.8 times more at risk of oral cavity and pharynx cancers, while heavy drinkers are five times more at risk. For liver cancer, increased risk comes only from excessive drinking. Studies indicate that for postmenopausal women, just one drink a day raises their risk of breast cancer by up to 9 percent compared with nondrinkers.


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