Cheers to your health

By: Ellie Foster, MPH

It’s officially the holiday season and that can bring with it a solid month of over indulgence. You might have an office party one weekend, a Friendsgiving another and a Yankee swap the next. All this celebrating can make it easy to go a little overboard with the alcohol. But be aware that even a small amount of alcohol can increase your chances of developing cancer, including oral, breast and liver cancer.


How does alcohol increase the risk of cancer?

Researchers have found a few ways that alcohol can increase the risk of cancer including:

  • Damaging your cells which makes them unstable and more vulnerable to cancer
  • Making it hard for your body to absorb nutrients that can help prevent cancer
  • Increasing the level of a hormone called estrogen which is linked to breast cancer

Alcohol Affects Women and Men Differently

Sorry ladies- our bodies aren’t able to process alcohol the same way as men. This means that alcohol stays in our bloodstreams for longer and puts us at a higher risk of certain cancers. For example, a woman’s risk for breast cancer increases with more alcohol consumption. This is especially true for breast cancer diagnosed after menopause. For each standard drink per day, there is about an 11 percent increase in breast cancer risk after menopause.

Follow the recommend serving size

Drinking alcohol in moderation will help to reduce your risk. Researchers and doctors recommend following these guidelines:
• One drink per day for women
• Two drinks per day for men

Oncology dietitian Karen Schilling still thinks less is better. Just because you can have 1 drink per day doesn't mean you should. “ That leaves some room to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer occasionally.”

You might be surprised to learn what counts as a drink! Different types of beer, wine or liquor can have different amounts of alcohol. Just because it all fits in a cup doesn’t mean it counts as a standard drink!
Here’s what counts as one drink :
• 12 ounces of beer
• 5 ounces of wines
• 1.5 ounces of liquor

How to Cut Back

Any amount that you can reduce your alcohol intake will help to lower your risk for getting cancer. Here are a few tips:
• Keep track of how much you’re drinking and avoid topping off one drink with more alcohol.
• Sip slowly and avoid pressure from others to drink faster.
• Make yourself a wine spritzer- It’s only half a glass of wine per serving!

Karen also recommends having a big glass of water with you when you drink. “ Ths will fill you up without the calories of alcohol and will keep you hydrated.”
It may seem like a bummer to cut back on your drinking during the holidays but remember that you can be festive without alcohol! And think about how great you will feel without dealing with the post party hangover. Cheers to your health!

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