We all learn at a young age that excessive alcohol consumption is harmful to our health and generally not recommended. That statement is solidified through the finding of a recent major study conducted at Imperial College London. According to the research, alcohol increases the risk of getting more types of cancer than previously thought.
The link between alcohol consumption and breast- and liver cancer is already widely known. The new study revealed a correlation between alcohol and several other cancers, including bowel cancer and cancers of the head and neck, namely mouth cancer, pharyngeal cancer, and laryngeal cancer.
The research team looked at data from 660 reviews of published studies, which explored the association between food and nutrient intake with the risk of developing or dying from 11 different cancers.
Coffee, on the other hand, was found to protect against diseases triggered by inflammation, such as cancer, due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, drinking at least one cup of coffee a day can lower the risk of developing basal skin carcinoma (a type of skin cancer) and liver cancer. We discuss the link between drinking coffee and a lower risk of liver disease in a previous article - Scientists Discover a New Benefit of Drinking Coffee.
The researchers believe that they know the reason why alcohol increases the risk of cancer too. When alcohol is metabolized, your body breaks it down into a chemical called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde damages the DNA, which is the cell’s “instruction manual” that controls the cell’s normal growth and function. This process can result in mutations that could become cancerous. Alcohol is also known to interfere with the functions of certain glands that release hormones. It impairs the hormone system’s ability to work properly, particularly affecting hormones involved in the development of breast cancer.
“This umbrella review confirms the evidence we have for alcohol and coffee in relation to cancer. Further research needs to better understand the mechanisms involved in the links between coffee and cancer as well as between alcohol and different cancer subtypes,” said Giota Mitrou, the director of research and innovation at World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), which funded the research.
The link between cancer and other foods and drinks examined in the study was weak. However, the evidence for an increased risk from alcohol consumption and a reduced risk for coffee and dairy products was strong for all 11 cancer types included in the study.
In general, the study result confirms that the more alcoholic drinks a person consumes, the higher their risk of developing one of the associated cancers. Besides limiting your alcohol consumption, there are several other ways in which your diet may affect your risk of cancer. The WCRF recommends enjoying a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruit, as well as being physically active.
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