In beer, wine and liquor, as well as in some medicines, mouthwashes, household products, and essential oils, a chemical substance known as ethanol or ethyl alcohol is found. The common term for that substance is alcohol. By the fermentation of sugars and starches by yeast, alcohol is produced.
There are different types of alcoholic drinks. Their names and the alcohol content in them are as follows:
  • Beers and hard ciders: 3-7 percent alcohol
  • Wines, including sake: 9-15 percent alcohol

  • Wines fortified with liquors, such as port: 16-20 percent alcohol

  • Liquors or distilled spirits, such as gin, rum, vodka and whiskey, which are produced by distilling the alcohol from fermented grains, fruits or vegetables: usually 30-40 percent alcohol or higher

Why is alcohol called the liquid carcinogen?

Based on research studies, it is found that alcohol has the capability of causing cancer. That is why alcohol is called the liquid carcinogen. The risk of developing alcohol-associated cancer increases as a person drinks more and more alcohol. The involvement of alcohol in the following types of cancer is clearly evident:

Head and neck cancer

For certain head and neck cancers, in particular, cancer of the oral cavity (excluding the lips), pharynx (throat) and larynx (voice box), a major risk factor is alcohol consumption. Rather than those who don’t drink alcohol, the people who consume 50 grams or more alcohol per day have two or three times more risk of developing cancers. Those who consume this amount of alcohol and also use tobacco, have higher risks of these cancers. These cancers can make one’s life miserable and one must go to the best head and neck cancer doctor.

Esophageal cancer

For a particular type of esophageal cancer called esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, alcohol is found to be a major risk factor. Other than that, those people who have a deficiency in an alcohol metabolising enzyme are found to have substantially increased risks of alcohol-related esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

Liver cancer

For liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma, alcohol consumption is an independent risk factor. It is also a primary cause of liver cancer, which is a dangerous disease. Sometimes surgery may be needed for treatment and the best surgical oncologist must be consulted for this.

Breast cancer

Numerous studies have proved the association of alcohol intake with the risk of breast cancer in women. It is found that with increasing alcohol intake, the risk of developing breast cancer also increases.

Colorectal cancers

There is a moderately increased risk factor of the colon and rectum associated with alcohol consumption. It is seen that those who regularly consume more than 50 grams of alcohol have increased the risk of developing colorectal cancer than non-drinkers or occasional drinkers. If these cancers develop, one must consult with a cancer specialist for treatment.

How does alcohol increase the risk of cancer?

It is found through extensive research that alcohol may increase the risk of cancer in multiple ways. They are the following:
  • Alcohol metabolizes (breaks down) ethanol in alcoholic drinks to acetaldehyde, a toxic chemical and also a probable human carcinogen. Both DNA (the genetic material that makes up genes) and proteins can be damaged by acetaldehyde.
  • Alcohol generates reactive oxygen species (chemically relative molecules that contain oxygen). DNA, proteins and lipids (fats) can be damaged by it through a process called oxidation.
  • Alcohol reduces the body’s ability to break down and absorb a variety of nutrients that may be associated with cancer risk, including vitamin A, nutrients in the vitamin B complex, such as folate, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and carotenoids.
  • Alcohol increases blood levels of estrogen, a sex hormone which is linked to the risk of breast cancer.

A variety of carcinogenic contaminants may also be present in alcoholic beverages. They are introduced during fermentation and production. They include nitrosamines, asbestos fibres, phenols and hydrocarbons.

“Alcohol: Temporary fun but with permanent consequence!” —– Author unknown