Excessive, Regular Alcohol Use And Its Long Term Effects On Health

2012-02-03 | |
Last updated: 2012-02-03

How Many People Consume Excess Alcohol?

According to statistics from the CDC and Health Canada, the number of people who drink between 4 and 5 standard drinks per day is somewhere between 3% and 5% of the population. This level of drinking is called “heavy drinking” and is important to identify because more than 90% of people in this category have health issues as a result. However, this is by no means the only part of the definition. According to research from the 1980’s, 40% of people who drank only two thirds of a standard drink per day also developed alcohol-related health problems.

Clearly, the definition of excess alcohol consumption depends on the person.

Breaking down these statistics, men are more likely to consume excess alcohol than women. Not surprisingly, those under 25 are also heavier drinkers than those who are older. More surprising, however, is that seniors are more than twice as likely to be heavy drinkers than those under 65 with 10% of seniors considered heavy drinkers.

What Are The Long Term Health Effects Of Drinking Too Much Alcohol?

While excess alcohol consumption can lead to short term destructive behavior, many people who consume too much alcohol are most at risk from the long term health issues that can take decades to appear. The health effects mentioned here focus on these issues and not the problems experienced by alcoholics.

Excess Alcohol Consumption Can Lead To Cancer

One of the health effects that excessive drinking can lead to is the development of a variety of cancers. Women who drink 3 or more or men who drink 4 or more standard drinks per day increase their chances of developing mouth and throat cancer by more than 5 times. Cancers of the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach are increased by more than 4 times. This level of alcohol also increases the risks of liver cancer by more than 3 and half times. Lastly women who drink this amount raise their risk of breast cancer by more than 50%.

While consuming this amount of alcohol may seem high for many people, even at lower levels of alcohol consumption, cancer is still a risk. For women who have only 1 drink per day and men who drink up to 3 drinks per day, the risks of mouth, throat and liver cancer are still almost 50% higher than for people who do not drink. As well, the risks of a number of other cancers are also increased as a result of consuming alcohol daily.

The likely cause of these cancers is as a result of genetic damage caused indirectly from too much alcohol. Researchers from the Medical Research Council determined in 2011 that when alcohol is broken down by the body, one of the by products is a cancer causing chemical. When only a moderate amount of alcohol is consumed, special compounds (enzymes) found in the liver rapidly break down this cancerous chemical. However, when too much alcohol is consumed at once the processing compounds become depleted. The result is that cells all over the body end up stewing in the cancerous mixture.

This is also the case with binge drinking where 4 or 5 drinks are consumed in within a few hours.

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Category: Disease Prevention, General Health, Health Risks

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