April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a public health program organized by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. This is a way of increasing outreach and education regarding the dangers of alcoholism and issues related to alcohol.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), alcohol use is one of the most important preventable risk factors for cancer, along with tobacco use, and excess body weight. Alcohol accounts for about 6% of all cancers and 4% of all cancer deaths in the United States. Yet many people don’t know about the link between alcohol use and cancer.
The ACS identified alcohol use linked with cancers of the: mouth, throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), esophagus, liver, colon and rectum, and breast.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 recommend that if you drink alcohol at all, drink in moderation – no more than one drink a day for women, and no more than two drinks a day for men. If you don’t drink, don’t start drinking because of any possible health benefits. The CDC adds to not drink at all if you: are under the legal drinking age, are pregnant or may be pregnant, have health problems that could be made worse by drinking, and are doing things like driving that could be dangerous with alcohol.
The CDC also notes that when you drink alcohol, your body breaks it down into a chemical called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde damages your DNA and prevents your body from repairing the damage. DNA is the cell’s “instruction manual” that controls a cell’s normal growth and function. When DNA is damaged, a cell can begin growing out of control and create a cancer tumor.
There are self-screening tests available online, including a self-assessment from the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test at https://auditscreen.org/check-your-drinking/.
For more information, visit www.itcmi.org and follow the Inter-Tribal Council on Facebook and Instagram @intertribalcouncilmichigan.