What do you know about the effects of alcohol consumption on your body? Everyone knows that alcohol abuse (heavy drinking) will eventually cause liver damage. But wait, there’s more. Those with a high level of consumption are putting other organs on the line:
- Brain – alcohol impairs clear thinking and coordination because it muddles the brain’s communication pathways. It can also alter mood and behavior.
- Heart and cardiovascular – alcohol increases the risk of irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), stroke and high blood pressure. It can also compromise the strength of the heart muscle.
- Pancreas – alcohol triggers the pancreas to produce toxic substances that lead to inflammation of that organ. If the swelling becomes aggravated, it can interfere with digestion.
- Immune system – too much alcohol, even on a single occasion, can weaken the immune system for 24 hours, raising the chances of getting sick if exposed to a communicable disease. Chronic alcohol use compromises the immune system long term.
- Cancer – Yes, there is a connection between alcohol and probability of developing cancer. It has already been established that sending too much liquor “down the hatch” leads to cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, breast and liver.
But it doesn’t stop there, according to a new study. Alcohol hits below the belt – specifically, the prostate gland.
A team of researchers from Canada and Australia identified 27 published studies (out of 340) that had not misclassified drinkers, a common confounder of accurate statistics in many studies.[i] They analyzed the prostate cancer risk of low, medium and high use drinkers, and compared them with abstainers. After computing the results, the authors wrote that “Our study finds, for the first time, a significant dose-response relationship between level of alcohol intake and risk of prostate cancer starting with low volume consumption…” This means that the more men drank, the greater the likelihood that they would develop prostate cancer.
Even a single drink can blur judgment, making it easier to say yes to a second at the same sitting. It’s unlikely, in the moment, that a man will think, “I don’t want to get prostate cancer so I’ll reduce the chance by stopping now.” But that is exactly what this new study should encourage men to do, to avoid stepping over the line from low consumption to a higher level. It puts a different emphasis on the exhortation to “Drink responsibly.” Your prostate is worth an advance decision to stop at one drink.
[i] Zhao J, Stockwell T, Roemer A, Chikrizhs T. Is alcohol consumption a risk factor for prostate cancer? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Cancer. 2016 Nov 15;16(1):845