World Cancer Day: drink less alcohol and reduce your cancer risk

PrintDid you know that drinking less alcohol can lower your risk of several kinds of cancer?

That’s one of the messages from the Huron County Health Unit as part of World Cancer Day on February 4.

New research explains how alcohol, a known carcinogen, damages the body. When the body breaks down alcohol, it produces acetaldehyde. This chemical can damage DNA in stem cells. Damaged stem cells can then lead to the production of cancerous cells.

“There’s no safe amount of alcohol in relation to a person’s risk for cancer,” says Public Health Promoter Laura Edgar. “We know that the less alcohol you drink, the more you reduce your risk. This is especially important for those who have a family history of cancer.”

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends limiting alcohol to less than one drink a day for women and less than two drinks a day for men. Women are more vulnerable to the health effects of alcohol even when drinking small amounts. For women, alcohol increases the production of estrogen, leading to a higher chance of breast cell mutation and a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

In 2010, Cancer Care Ontario estimated that alcohol caused up to 3,000 cases of cancer in Ontario. Alcohol is associated with colorectal, breast and liver cancers, as well as head and neck cancers.

Edgar recommends a few options for those looking to decrease the amount they drink:
– Set small, reasonable goals. If you are a regular drinker, aim for having a few alcohol-free days each week.
– Download the free “Saying When” app. This app helps you figure out how much you’re drinking now, as well as helps you set goals and develop strategies for cutting back.
– Visit for information and support. Rethink Your Drinking is a regional campaign to help change the way we think about and use alcohol.

Source: Huron County (Canada, February 2018)

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