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Safely Cheers to the New Year

January 1, 2024

By: Gwendolyn Lavalais, MD
Gift of Life Medical Director

Before we raise a glass and cheers to a new year, let’s consider how our bubbly beverage of choice might work against all the healthy goals we set for ourselves.

Did you know that alcohol consumption has been classified as carcinogenic (cancer causing) since 1988? *

Then, in 2010, the major ingredient of alcohol beverages, ethanol, and its byproduct acetaldehyde, were also classified as carcinogenic.

But how does this all work in your body?

First, ingredients in alcohol bind with DNA and cause genetic mutations.

Then, these genetic mutations begin to influence hormone levels.

Next, hormonal changes can modify how cells properly grow and divide. Specifically, in women, alcohol consumption can cause an increase in the production of estrogen, which is linked to breast cancer.

However, the cancers most linked to alcohol consumption are those in the aerodigestive track, meaning your mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, breast, liver and colon. Heavy drinking is also linked to an increased risk for stomach and pancreatic cancer, as well as all acute or chronic leukemias.

So, how can you drink responsibly and reduce your risk for cancer?Well, women should not drink more than one drink a day and men should not drink more than two drinks a day.

And what is considered “one drink?” Well, that depends on what you’re drinking! 

Check out our handy “cheat sheet” for examples.

Considering the big business of alcohol and its social acceptance, limiting ourselves to only one or two drinks can be a challenge. But whether you’re participating in “dry January” or “damp January,” just keep in mind that whatever you put in your body can have a real-life impact on your health now and in the future.

* Source: International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

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