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Alcohol and Cancer - As Dangerous as Smoking?

Jun 19, 2008
Some basic facts concerning alcoholism include: the disease afflicts nearly 14 million people nationwide, or nearly one in every 10 adults; it kills nearly 20,000 Americans each year, both directly and as a result of alcohol-related incidents and conditions.

Nearly one-third of people diagnosed with psychotic disorders show a history of alcoholism and alcohol-dependency. Clearly this disease is devastating in its scope and impact. It is a strain on the public health system and a trauma for countless families nationwide...

However, even these staggering numbers may be an actual understatement of the true damage inflicted by alcoholism. A new international study has found that the cancer risk associated with heavy alcohol consumption has long been under reported and may rival even the risks posed by smoking. The study, conducted by the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer, was recently published in The Lancet Oncology journal.

The research results lead to the conclusion that extreme levels of drinking and alcohol dependency can considerably increase the risk of a multitude of cancers. These include cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, liver, mouth and larynx. There is even the suggestion of a link between alcohol consumption and lung and pancreatic cancers, although there were not sufficient findings to be conclusive on these two cancers.

Some controversy was sparked in the medical community as a result of the cancer study results as other current studies have supported the idea that moderate alcohol consumption may lower heart disease risks. Cancer researcher stress that their study shows only the effects of heavy, long term drinking associated with alcoholism. Some doctors still continue to recommend certain drinks, such as a glass of wine, only in moderation by non-alcoholic adults.

The death rates caused by alcoholism are astounding. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that alcoholism causes more than 320,000 deaths per year in the industrialized world, approximately 185,000 in men and 142,000 in women. In developing countries, where rates of alcoholism among the population can be higher, alcohol has been blamed for more than 1.5 million deaths in men and 300,000 in women every year.

The crisis of alcohol consumption has been deemed particularly severe by public health officials in central and eastern Europe, where financial problems and the affordability of highly-concentrated alcohols such as vodka have resulted in near-epidemic proportions of alcoholism.

Some research has suggested that the increase in head and neck cancers in eastern European countries may be partially attributed to rising rates of alcoholism.

If you believe yourself or a loved one to be suffering from alcohol dependency, a 24 hour Alcohol Treatment Referral Hotline can be reached at 1-800-ALCOHOL. Victims of alcoholism are urged to consult their health care professional and seek other treatment options such as Alcoholics Anonymous for support.
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