INDIANAPOLIS — It’s no secret that many people have been upping their intake of alcohol during the pandemic. While the need for a drink (or two) is understandable, some new research is highlighting a link between alcohol and cancer.
According to new research published in the Lancet Oncology, more than 700,000 new cancer cases were linked to alcohol consumption in 2020. A number amounting to 4% of all new cancer cases.
Most cases were linked to people who had more than two drinks a day, but more than 100,000 cases were documented in people who averaged less than that.
Men made up 75% of cases, with liver and esophageal cancers being the most common among them. For women, breast cancer was most common.
A nurse practitioner at Community Fairbanks Recovery Center spoke with CBS4 about the impact alcohol can have on your body.
“It doesn’t matter what you drink, wine, liquor, beer, seltzer — it all gets broken down to the same thing in your body which is ethanol. That destroys cells at the lowest level. So, when the cells try to repair themselves, they repair incorrectly. Alcohol also causes your body to release certain hormones like estrogen. Hormones tell your body to grow more cells and if those cells are already damage and they’re being told to grow more, that’s how cancer can develop from chronic alcohol abuse,” Rachel Botkin said.
During the pandemic, Botkin says Fairbanks saw an increase in people seeking treatment for alcohol abuse, including those who had relapsed. She adds that part of the problem with combatting alcohol-related cancers and illnesses lies in the way alcohol consumption is generally viewed.
“The culture surrounding alcohol is very different from the culture surrounding nicotine usage. Do you have these wine parties and it’s fun to drink wine and you can drink wine in excess and that’s ok. But it’s not. There’s not so much of a stigma on drinking as there is on say nicotine use or smoking tobacco, so it’s more culturally accepted to drink,” she said.
Botkin says alcohol enters every single cell in your body. So chronic drinkers can end up with damage in their brain, early onset Alzheimer’s or dementia, breast cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, or colon cancer.
She also adds that the more people know about what alcohol actually does to your body and with more studies on alcohol, people will eventually see it as something that can cause damage to more than just your liver. But Botkin says she thinks it will take time for that to happen.
For those who may be struggling with substance abuse, Botkin wants you to know there is help out there, including Community Fairbanks Recovery Center. You can also reach out to Alcoholics Anonymous, or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline.