Doctors say too much alcohol can potentially lead to cancer

Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 2:52 PM CDT
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LADYSMITH, Wis. (WEAU) - You may connect alcohol abuse with its impact on the liver, but it can also affect other parts of the body.

Marshfield Medical Clinic-Ladysmith internal medicine doctor Steven Weiss says excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a number of problems, including cancer.

“Alcohol is a carcinogen, or at least it is something that can facilitate cancer,” Weiss said.

Weiss says alcohol-related cancers can manifest in various parts of the body.

“So the mouth, the esophagus or cancer of the liver is associated female breast cancer, colon, rectal cancer. Those are some of the cancers that alcohol can contribute to,” Weiss said.

Weiss says alcohols contain ethanol, which is a toxin.

“I think that people that are generally consuming more than two drinks a day are just going to be getting more toxins into their system,” Weiss said. “If you’re swallowing alcohol, swallowing enough of it, it can cause changes in the cells and mucous membranes that can be pretty malignant and then eventually become malignant for liver cancer, for instance, that contribute to cirrhosis and cirrhosis of the liver irrespective of cause as a risk factor for liver cancer.”

Weiss says if you are drinking in excess, keeping up with doctor visits can help catch alcohol-related signs of cancer.

“It’s certainly important to get age-appropriate screenings,” Weiss said. “Women that are heavier drinkers should be sure and get their mammograms. Men or women over age 50 should get colon cancer screenings, preferably with a colonoscopy.”

For those who do drink too much, Weiss adds there are people more than willing to help.

“Alcohol overuse and alcoholism are diseases that we don’t stigmatize people for,” Weiss said. “So we encourage people to come in and ask for help and more, and we’re happy to provide.”

People like Marshfield Medical Center-Ladysmith recovery coach Chelsea Korzenieski.

“I just sit down with them and just learn like where they’re coming from,” Korzenieski said. “Then after that, we kind of go through some sobriety goals and also kind of help push them along a little bit more into recovery to see what they want to become instead of what they have been dealing with.”

As a way to unwind from a long day at work or even in casual settings, Weiss says that may lead people to drink too much.

“There’s a kind of, you know, it’s five o’clock somewhere kind of mentality,” Weiss said. “When it’s five o’clock in Wisconsin, a lot of times people go right to the drink to kind of start with things.”

Instead, Weiss says a good preventative measure to cut back can be to find positive activities.

“A much more healthful approach would be to go out and get some exercise, you know, instead of sitting down and having a couple of drinks,” Weiss said.

Korzenieski agrees.

“Like going for a walk or, you know, spending more time with your family if you’re able to or, you know, taking a nap,” Korzenieski said.

Overall, Weiss says one of the most important things you can do is to stay up to date with routine medical screenings to prevent and catch cancer before it gets worse.

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