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Alcohol and Cancer

Why Go Dry?

Before we talk about the benefits of turning Dry January into A Dry and Better You, let’s not forget that we can find whatever we want to hear on the internet today.  The world wide web is filled with misinformation, so it is vitally important to your health that you follow the science.  We want to make educated decisions based on the latest research – not fads and trends.

And this segment isn’t about shaming anybody.  Each of us has to make the best decision we can for ourselves with the information we have at the time.

Let’s first start with what Alcohol actually is…

Alcohol is classified as a neurotoxin because contains ethanol and its ethanol causing the issue.  Ethanol, also called grain alcohol, causes the “buzz” factor. Our body converts Ethanol into Acetaldehyde, which is the toxic chemical wreaking havoc in our cells. 

And, in addition to Acetaldehyde, alcoholic beverages may also contain a variety of cancer-causing contaminants that are introduced during fermentation and production.

It’s not about how many drinks you have, it’s about how much ethanol you are consuming.

Have you ever wondered why we can have 12 ounces of beer, but only 5 ounces of wine, and a measly 1.5 ounces, or a “shot,” of 80-proof distilled spirits (liquor)?

It’s because, generally speaking, a standard alcoholic drink in the United States contains 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol.

We know alcohol can be addicting and harmful to the fetus.  We can now add toxic and cancer-causing to the list. 

Alcohol and Cancer

According to the latest research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Alcohol has been linked to 7 cancers now:  head & neck cancers (mouth cancers, throat cancers), esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer and rectal cancer.

For women, it’s more breast cancer.

For men, it’s more head & neck cancers & GI cancers.

There is no threshold of alcohol consumption below which cancer risk does not increase, at least for some cancers.

Another resource you may want to read is from the American Institute for Cancer Research

The French Paradox – Debunked

French Paradox is a phrase coined by 3 Frenchmen in the 80’s.  It was debunked in the 90’s but the wine industry grabbed a hold of it and won’t seem to let it go. 

In 1992, the World Health Organization discovered the French were underreporting deaths from heart disease by approx. 20% so once you account for this error, the French fell in line with every other country. So, there is nothing magical that the French are doing – their rates of death related to heart disease is equal to other first world countries.

Skip the wine and eat the grape.

Ways to Cut Down

*  Drink a large glass of water after each drink or drink a club soda with lime.

*  For wine, try a wine spritzer which is part wine & part club soda.

*  If you are used to ordering a double, order a single.

Other Alternatives

*  Most people are aware that there are non-alcoholic beers, but did you know that it also now extends to craft beers, IPA’s, stouts and more. Lot’s of beer options for those wanting the taste of beer but not the alcohol itself& wines

*  Wine of all types (white, red, rose and sparkling) are now available in de-alcoholized forms.

*  Mocktails are increasing in popularity and there are also non-alcoholic spirits now.

*  Check with your local ABC Store. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – nonalcoholic drinks can be hard to find, especially in larger stores such as Total Wine. You can also check out Curious Elixirs online, as they have an extensive assortment of non-alcoholic spirits.

But Alcohol is socially acceptable…

Yep, alcohol is toxic, can cause cancer, is addictive, and harmful to the fetus in pregnant women.  And while this all makes sense, it’s also socially acceptable…..

I call it the CAN principle:  If it’s common, that makes in acceptable and when it’s acceptable, it is normalized.

Think of smoking back-in-the-day.  Doctors used to smoke in the hospital during rounds… Can you imagine that today!  We learn, we adapt…we make changes and focus forward.

Personal story

I lived in CA for 25 years and my husband would call me a wine & weather snob.  But, I actually made the decision to quit drinking alcohol a few months ago for a few reasons:

I didn’t like how I felt the next day – regardless of whether it was 1 glass of wine of 2-3 glasses.

It was impairing my sleep so I would wake up the next day tired and dragging

And the research is becoming more and more clear about alcohol and it’s connection to cancer.

And I thought I would miss it – but I don’t.  I had a great time NYE celebrating with friends who were drinking, and I had club soda with lime.  Still had a bunch of fun and woke up without a hangover.

My husband took me out for an amazing Italian dinner and I didn’t have a glass of wine.  This was HUGE!  I really believed that this was going to be my biggest temptation, but it wasn’t.  Why?  Because I had already made up my mind to not drink.  The decision had already been made.  I really thought I’d miss it more than I do, but I don’t regret my decision at all.

As an oncology nurse, I see a lot of suffering every day.  And cancer patients have told me repeatedly they wouldn’t wish this disease on anyone.  And while there is no 100% guarantee that I won’t get cancer, I do want to do what I can to not get it, so I can be there for my family as well as my clients and patients.  

Again, NO SHAME. We each need to make the best decision we can for ourselves with the information we have on hand. Maybe you aren’t ready to quit cold turkey…. maybe you prefer to taper…. maybe you decide to only drink on special occasions… maybe you decide to make no changes. Your decision is strictly up to you.

Hope you find this helpful.  As always, I’m here for you. If you’d like to talk or ask me specific questions, please click HERE and select a day and time that works best for your schedule.

Resources used for writing this article are as follows:

Alcohol and Cancer Risk Fact Sheet – National Cancer Institute

World Cancer Research Fund & American Institute for Cancer Research report on Alcohol and Cancer:

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