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“At the end of the day your Health is Your Responsibility”

As I was reading an article by the American Institute for Cancer Research on Alcohol and Cancer I began to reflect on my days as an Oncology Dietitian witnessing the devastation of Squamous cell and Adeno Carcinoma.  One never forgets the destruction it caused to the Oral cavities, Pharynx (throat), Esophagus, Larynx (voice box) referred to as Head and Neck cancer.  I also remember the powerful impact it made on my life choices witnessing a history of smoking and alcohol consumption as the common theme shared among these patients.

A recent survey suggests that 60% to 70% of Americans are unaware of the alcohol-cancer link.  In all actuality alcohol accounts for an alarming 3.5 percent (20,000) of all cancer deaths in the United States. Nevertheless, I still have those second guessing me and arguing, “Why Alcohol”?

Alcohol is a chemical known as Ethanol which is the result of fermentation of sugars and starches by yeast.  The amount of ethanol in a specific drink is measured by grams for instance most standard alcoholic drinks contain 14.0 grams of pure alcohol.

Based on extensive reviews of research studies, there is a strong scientific consensus of an association between alcohol drinking and the following types of cancers.

  • Head and Neck: description indicated above, people who consume 50 or more grams of alcohol per day (3.5 or more) drinks have a two to three times greater risk of developing head & neck cancer than non- drinkers. The risk is even higher if it is combined with the use of tobacco.
  • Colorectal Cancer: cancer of the colon and rectum is highly associated with the consumption of 50 or more grams of alcohol per day (3.5 drinks) have a 1.5 times greater risk of developing colorectal cancer than nondrinkers. Note: for every 10 gm of alcohol consumed per day there is a (7 %) increase in the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Liver Cancer: Alcohol is an independent risk factor and a primary cause of liver cancer.
  • Breast Cancer: There is an increased risk of breast cancer associated with increasing alcohol intake. Women who drink 45 grams of alcohol per day (3 drinks) have a 1.5 times greater risk of developing breast cancer than nondrinkers.  For every 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day (slightly less than one drink), there is a small 7% increase in the risk of breast cancer.  *Alcohol increases blood levels of circulating estrogen*.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans – Recommendations for Drinking is

1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men per day.
One Drink = 12 oz. regular beer.    5 FL oz. table wine.    1.5 FL oz. 80-proof spirits.

Beware of Wine Glass Sizes:  Wine glasses should be 12 oz. to 16 oz. filled to 1/3 to ½ point, beware of larger glasses and over filling, one glass of wine could end up being 3.

Beware of Cocktail Drinks: Black Russians, Brandy Alexanders, Long Island Ice Tea etc. not considered one drink.  These drinks contain multiple shots of 80-proof spirits.

Beware of Binge Drinking: Recommended limits is for a single day, not as an average over several days.  Binge drinking increases the risk for heart disease.

Binge Drinking = 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more for men.

Why Alcohol, primarily due to the carcinogenic effects of alcohol consumption.  As a result, to keep Americans healthy the above standard guidelines were established of which compliance is strongly encouraged.

Personally, I learned early in my career Why Not Alcohol, it was truly my…

Last Call for Alcohol!