Are you worried about alcohol and breast cancer risk? This is the most common type of cancer among women and made up one-quarter of all new cases in 2018. This is one of the most serious diseases today so it’s important to know the basics including symptoms, causes, and treatments. Several factors like genetics, environment, and lifestyle can affect a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer. A big question is whether certain substances like alcohol increases the risk of this type of cancer. Alcohol is usually linked to health conditions like kidney/liver disease, although it can also cause other serious diseases like cancer.
The number of alcohol people drink can play a role in the effects. For example, the Mediterranean Diet has included wine for thousands of years and produces world regions with some of the highest life expectancies. However, heavy alcohol drinking can cause a wide range of possible health issues. They include liver/kidney disease, heart disease, and digestion problems. It can also increase the risk of certain types of cancer. Some like mouth, throat, and liver probably aren’t very surprising. However, others might be tougher to guess some of the other types. As always it’s critical to get the facts so you’ll know possible risks.
How Does Heavy Drinking Affect the Body?
Some studies show that drinking one drink per day can provide health benefits. It could be a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, or a shot of liquor. There’s some debate about the issue since other studies show that any alcohol drinking has negative health effects. More research is needed but the “drink moderately” rule should apply because the body doesn’t process high volumes of alcohol well.
Heavy drinking is the type that can cause serious long-term health problems that affect the body and brain. Here are some of the most common long-term effects:
- Memory loss
- Liver disease
- Short attention span
- High blood pressure
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Cancer (some)
- Problems learning
- Fatty liver disease
- Fewer brain cells
Binge drinking can result in various health issues including alcohol poisoning. This is defined by 5 drinks/hour among men and 4 drinks/hour among women. Over time this can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can cause various symptoms.
When a person experiences alcohol poisoning they should call 911 immediately. The reason is alcohol poisoning can cause serious health problems and even permanent damage. A person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can even rise after a person drops drinking or passes out.
Heavy drinking can affect many body parts. They include the heart, liver, pancreas, bones, and central nervous system (CNS). One of the best-known alcohol-related diseases is liver disease. Over time this can lead to cirrhosis due to major scarring of healthy tissue.
Alcoholic liver disease is the most serious type. If you have cirrhosis it’s important to stop drinking cold turkey. The reason is if you continue drinking it will cause more organ damage. Over time it can cause the disease to progress to late-stage cirrhosis.
In some situations, alcohol-related issues are linked to various problems. They include ones related to relationships, finances, work, and so on.
Alcohol and Breast Cancer Risk
Various studies show that drinking alcoholic beverages can boost a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. This is a certain type of breast cancer that’s related to hormones. Drinking alcohol can increase levels of hormones like estrogen. They’re connected to a kind of breast cancer known as “hormone-receptor-positive.
It’s also possible for alcohol to increase the risk of breast cancer through damaged DNA cells. These make up the body’s blueprint and are critical for good health. When DNA cells are damaged it can cause major health conditions like cancer.
The amount of alcohol drinking that affects breast cancer risk might be surprising. Having 3 alcoholic drinks/week increases breast cancer risk by 15%. Every other drink consumed daily increases the risk by 10%.
Studies also show that teens up to 15 years old who drink 3-5 alcoholic beverages/week have a 3x higher risk of having non-cancerous lumps. While they don’t contain any cancer cells at that time there’s a higher risk later on of breast cancer.
A related issue is the risk of breast cancer returning after a woman had it before. One 2009 study showed that drinking ¾ alcoholic drinks per week increased the chance that breast cancer will return among women who had early-stage breast cancer in the past.
The main takeaway from these studies is that drinking regularly can cause health damage if you don’t get drunk or do binge drinking. It’s also important to note what “1” drink is. It’s classed as 12-oz. of beer, 5-oz. of wine, and 1.5-oz. of liquor.
If you want to reduce your risk of breast cancer it’s critical to reduce your alcohol consumption. You can either quit cold turkey or simply reduce how many drinks you have per week. It’s also important to consider how drinking is affecting your relationship with family and friends. Heavy drinking can also harm your social life.
Tips to Reduce Alcohol Drinking
Eat While Drinking
This is a basic yet effective way to help prevent the effects of heavy drinking. If you eat before drinking or have some “bar snacks” while drinking it will make it tougher to get drunk. Keep in mind that the body only processes a small amount of alcohol per hour.
Don’t Forget Non-Alcoholic Drinks
Try to have alternatives to alcoholic drinks like coffee, tea, or water. It’s even better to make those beverages your go-to drinks than consume alcohol once in a blue moon. This will help to lower your risk of various health conditions like cancer.
Avoid Salty Snacks
Peanuts and potato chips are go-to drinking snacks. However, the salt will make you thirsty, which could speed up your alcohol consumption.
Tweak Drinking Habits
This doesn’t mean you have to quit cold turkey. However, you should try to figure out some triggers of binge drinking. For example, do you drink more when you’re stressed or depressed? Try to avoid alcohol for 2+ days per week. It’s better if you can make drinking something you do once in a blue moon instead of most/every day of the week.
If you chug-a-lug alcohol it will be tougher for your body to keep up. One option is to put down your glass after every drink. This can give your body more time to digest alcohol. Some drinks like wine seem to taste better when they’re drunk slowly and instead of like a drinking game.
Track Drinking Habits
This involves writing down how many drinks you have in a “diary.” The idea of a drinking diary might seem odd at first. However, it’s important because it will then be clearer how much and often you drink. Knowing when you’ve had “one too many” is closely related to alcohol and breast cancer risk.