Alcohol’s effect on health: Increased risk of cancers, infertility and more

Before ordering another drink, consider this: The American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) warns us that alcohol can cause a higher risk for seven types of cancers. While it may seem harmless, light to moderate alcohol consumption can cause more than five percent of cancers and deaths from it. Not only that, the researchers at the University of Queensland reported a link between drinking alcohol and lower fertility rates.

No, the amount of alcohol you drink is actually not beneficial to your machismo. Studies show that it actually lowers down your manliness by making you more susceptible to cancer and lower sperm counts. Research on the relationship between cancer and alcohol consumption has been conducted before, but now the researchers at the ASCO stress that it is important to control alcoholic drinking, especially Americans who consume more than the average. Even drinking small amounts heightens the risk of cancer in the throat (esophagus), mouth, colorectal, breast, and liver.

Consumption of alcoholic beverages are at an all-time high. In a survey conducted by JAMA Psychiatry in 2013, 73 percent of Americans consumed alcohol regularly, and almost 13 percent of 73 described their habit as excessive, or binge drinking. The survey also found that 50 percent more people developed a drinking problem from 2001 to 2002.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests limiting alcoholic beverages daily. Women should have no more than eight drinks per week, and men should not exceed 14 a week. The data however, shows that individuals in the U.S. are consuming too much, despite revelations of the negative effects of excessive alcohol ingestion.

The risk of varying cancers depends on your drinking. For mouth cancer, light drinkers have a 1.13 percent chance, moderate drinkers have a 1.83 percent chance, and heavy drinkers have a 5.13 percent chance of developing cancer; esophageal cancer rates for alcohol drinkers are 1.26, 2.23, and 4.94 percent, respectively; liver cancer rates are at 1.00, 1.08, and 2.07 percent respectively; and female breast cancer rates at 1.04, 1.23, and 1.61 percent.

In 2009, there is an estimated 18,200 to 21,300 alcohol-related deaths in the U.S., reported by Noelle LoConte, professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

A common misconception about preconception and pregnancy is that the woman should abstain from alcohol. Research points that it should also be a man’s responsibility, since alcohol has adverse effects on the male reproductive system as well. The National Alcohol and Drug Knowledgebase (NADK) reported that Australian men have high or risky levels of alcohol consumption. Data suggests that males are more likely to consume more than two standard drinks per day, as compared to women. In an experimental study, a single dose of ethanol to the stomach lining of an animal incurred damage to the testis, which harms the cells that are responsible for sperm production. Lab tests on rats showed that these animals who were administered alcohol for ten weeks significantly reduced the concentration of sperm and its mobility. Rats not exposed to alcohol successfully mated and fertilized females of the same species.

Abuse of alcohol consumption in both parents greatly affects neurological, behavioral and biochemical outcomes of the offspring. Excessive drinking can change the environment of the testes, which then alters how the sperm develops and matures. These changes can also be transferred during fertilization, and can alter the molecular makeup of the embryo. Like smoking cigarettes, alcohol is highly encumbering to fetal development. (Related: Smoking causes up to 40% of cancer deaths in the US… so why are cigarettes still sold by pharmacies?)

While debates may arise over whether alcohol itself or its other elements and ingredients are the causes of cancer, reducing consumption or avoiding alcohol altogether is highly suggested. There are other ways to enjoy your company, or spend time with them.

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