Shelf of liquor bottles

To drink (alcohol) or not to drink…

Shelf of liquor bottles

Yes or no to alcohol during cancer treatment?

According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, studies show evidence that alcohol consumption increases the risk of head and neck cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx (throat) and larynx, as well as cancer of the esophagus, breast in women and colorectum in men.

Drinking alcohol also has been linked to risk in colorectal cancer in women as well as liver cancer.  Per the National Cancer Institute, those who use alcohol in combination with tobacco products have been found to greatly increase the risk of cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus, as opposed to those who use either alone.

There is no actual safe recommendation for alcohol consumption, though you may have heard that alcohol in moderation may reduce the risk of heart disease.  The American Heart Association recommends that if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, which is defined as an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.  A drink is defined as one 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits, or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.

Can I have a drink during my cancer treatment?

Alcohol may have some adverse effects during some cancer treatments. It is recommended to avoid alcohol during radiation therapy for head and neck cancers, as it can be extremely drying, exacerbate painful swallowing as well as contribute to dehydration.

Staying hydrated is very important during chemotherapy as well, so alcohol may be more detrimental during that time.  Even in small amounts, alcohol can irritate mouth sores or potentially interact with any drugs you may be receiving.

It is not yet clear whether alcohol use is linked to recurrence after cancer treatment; though, as discussed above, it may increase the risk for a new cancer.

If you drink alcohol, be sure to discuss your intake with your physician.

Read what the American Cancer Society has to say regarding alcohol intake.


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