Scientists continue researching the link between alcohol and cancer. Yet, more and more research indicates a strong association between the two. It makes sense that alcohol is linked with cancer since alcohol is a toxin.

The American Cancer Society warns that the types of cancer with strong links to alcohol are mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus liver, colon, rectum and breast. Alcohol also increases your risk of pancreatic cancer.

In the United Kingdom, a new report by Sheffield University, commissioned by Cancer Research UK, estimates that alcohol will cause around 135,000 cancer deaths over the next 20 years and will cost the National Health Service (NHS) an estimated £2 billion ($2.6 billion) in treatments.

In the US, cancer is slated to overtake heart disease as the nation’s leading cause of death by 2020. In the UK, cancer is already topping the list and it’s primarily linked to its drinking culture. The report forecasts that there will be over 1.2 million hospital admissions for cancer over the 20 year period, which will cost the NHS £100 million ($2 million), on average, per year.

British Photojournalist Peter Dench captured the island’s penchant for turning any hour into happy hour. In an article in Slate he said, “The English are drinking younger, longer, faster, and more cheaply than ever before.”  Dench spent three years chronicling British drinking culture which he describes as “a nation of binge drinkers.” His photographs examine the ways in which drinking has created social problems throughout the UK.

The British are known for downing a few pints a day. The Daily Mail reports that Brits drink a whopping 14,841 pints of beer and 13,923 glasses of wine every minute. According to Cancer Research UK regularly drinking up to a pint of premium lager or a large glass of wine a day can increase the risk of mouth, upper throat, esophageal (food pipe), breast and bowel cancers.

How alcohol can cause cancer

According to the American Cancer Society the most important element that in raises cancer risk in alcohol is ethanol. Ethanol is found in beers, wines, or liquors (distilled spirits). In our bodies, ethanol is converted into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde. It damages DNA and can stop our cells from repairing this damage.

Outside factors can influence the communication between genes and cells. Alcohol is one of those outside factors that can confuse communication and create conditions, such as methyl groups attaching themselves to the wrong cell and forming abnormal cancer cells.

This is how alcohol can damage tissue. In the mouth and throat it can act like an irritant. Cells that are damaged may try to repair themselves that could lead to DNA changes (through gene expression) in the cells and create an environment for carcinogenesis.

The American Cancer Society recommends no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women. The limit is lower for women because women’s body’s are smaller and because they tend to break down alcohol more slowly. The ACS warns, “these daily limits do not mean it’s safe to drink larger amounts on fewer days of the week, which can still lead to health, social, and other problems.”

I personally think this recommendation is too high. Challenging your system with alcohol daily is not a good idea. See (insert link) for my recommendations on setting alcohol limits for yourself.