Alcohol and Cancer: Treatment May Lower Risk
Through a non 12 step program, individualized treatment plans can be created for individuals who wish to completely abstain from all drugs and alcohol. AA alternative programs provide alcohol treatment plans that are self-empowering and by promoting abstinence or safe levels of alcohol consumption, individuals can lower their risk of certain types of cancer. It is important to note that heavy alcohol drinkers can also lower their risk for cancer by cutting down alcohol consumption to safe levels.
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Several previous studies have reported a link between alcohol and cancer (especially cancer of the upper digestive tract and liver). However, many previous studies included males only, and many were general population studies. Few studies have been conducted with individuals with alcohol use disorders. A team of researchers in Denmark examined cancer morbidity in a large cohort of male and female individuals with alcohol use disorders (Thygesen et. al., 2009).
Alcohol and Cancer – Details of the Study
The participants in this study included 15,258 men and 3,552 women who were cancer-free while in a Copenhagen outpatient alcohol treatment clinic during the period between 1954 and 1992. The researchers used the Danish Cancer Registry to discover cancer incidence of all participants up until 1999, and cancer incidence rates were standardized for sex, age, and calendar time.
Of the 15,258 men, 2,145 developed cancer, compared to 1,141 expected cases. Significant elevated cancer risk was found for cancers of the tongue, mouth, pharynx, esophagus, liver, larynx, and lungs. A higher cancer incidence rate for renal cancer was seen in both men and women. In women, contrary to suggestions in some previous studies, breast cancer incidence was not significantly elevated. However, incidence of cervical cancer was higher in women. The researchers did not observe increased incidence of cancer of the bladder, colon, or rectum. This study confirms the previously established association between high consumption of alcohol and cancer of the liver and upper digestive tract. This study also points to a significant elevation of renal cancer among individuals with alcohol use disorders.
The researchers admit that tobacco use is likely a confounder in this study: “In most populations, alcohol and smoking are correlated, and heavy drinkers are often heavy smokers. Smoking therefore is a likely confounder for several of the associations observed in this study. We did not have information on the smoking habits, but the incidence of lung cancer was not as high as could be expected in a cohort of presumed heavy smokers, as cancers of the respiratory system are strongly associated with smoking.” The researchers also lacked information about dietary habits, social status and other potential confounders; these factors may have also influenced the results.
Alcohol and Cancer: Could Treatment Lower Risk?
Notwithstanding, this research confirms the association between alcohol use and cancers of the upper digestive system and liver, and it also suggests that heavy drinking may increase risk of renal cancer. Based on this and other research, we can assume that alcohol treatment programs that successfully promote abstinence or safe levels of alcohol consumption will lower an individual’s risk for several different types of cancer.
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Thygesen LC, Mikkelsen P, Anderson TV, Tennesen H, Juel K, Becker U, Gronbaek M. Cancer incidence among patients with alcohol use disorders — long-term follow-up. Alcohol and Alcoholism. 2009; 44(4): 387-391.