Alcohol Consumption and Cancer
You may know heavy drinking leads to health problems. What you may not know, however, is that heavy alcohol consumption increases your risk for certain cancers.
In fact, alcohol accounts for up to four percent of cancer deaths in the United States according to the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. One international study from the World Cancer Research Fund finds that just three alcohol beverages a day can cause liver cancer.
Alcohol Consumption and Your Liver
In 1998, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) confirmed alcohol was a carcinogen. A carcinogen is any substance that can cause cancer in living tissues.
Heavy alcohol use damages the liver and causes inflammation. That inflammation puts your liver at a higher risk for liver cancer.
Cirrhosis of the liver is also the result of heavy alcohol consumption. Cirrhosis results when scar tissues forms and adds up. The building up of scar tissue eventually stops the liver from functioning. Symptoms of cirrhosis include weakness, easy bruising, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), fatigue, itching, and lack of appetite.
At least five percent of people with cirrhosis will develop liver cancer and up to 90 percent with liver cancer also have cirrhosis, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Alcoholic fatty liver disease is another consequence of heavy alcohol consumption. Fatty liver can be reversed in its early stages, but if you continue to drink heavily, it will turn into alcoholic hepatitis or liver inflammation caused by drinking.
Many heavy drinkers have fatty liver and up to 35 percent develop alcoholic hepatitis, according to the American Liver Foundation. And by having either of these conditions, you are at a much higher risk of developing liver cancer.