Spring Has Sprung!

It’s April and we are finally starting to see some signs of spring including the blooming of the many beautiful flowers we get here on Vancouver Island.

One flower that is particularly important across Canada this month is the daffodil, as April was named daffodil month by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS). The yellow daffodil is meant to be a symbol of strength and courage in the fight against cancer. Cancer has become an overwhelming epidemic, with the CCS estimating that 2 in 5 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetimes and 1 in 4 will die of the disease. Although this statistic is alarming, with the thanks to years of research we now know that there are many things that we can do to prevent cancer and keep our bodies healthy. For example, eating well, having regular physical activity, and wearing protection from the sun can help prevent several forms of cancer. We also know that smoking can significantly increase your risk of cancer; in fact it is estimated that smoking is responsible for 30% of all cancer deaths in Canada.

What you may be more surprised to find out is that drinking alcohol also increases your risk of developing cancer, particularly cancer of the breast, colon and rectum, esophagus, larynx, liver, mouth, and pharynx. In fact, according to the CCS drinking 3.5 drinks per day can double or even triple your risk of developing certain types of cancer. The research has also discovered that alcohol makes it easier for the tissues in your mouth and throat to absorb the cancer causing chemicals in tobacco; therefore, consuming tobacco and alcohol together are even worse for you than either on its own.

Now we know that there have been some reports in the past few years indicating that drinking red wine has beneficial health effects. However, when we look at all the research together, the results overwhelmingly indicate that drinking ANY type of alcohol (beer, wine, or spirits) raises your risk of developing cancer. The simple fact is, the less alcohol you drink the more you reduce your risk of cancer.

So how does alcohol cause cancer?

Well there are actually several ways that drinking alcohol leads to damages in our bodies. For example, when alcohol is being digested in our bodies it is converted into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde, which can damage our DNA and stop our own cells from repairing this damage. Alcohol can also cause an increase of hormones in our body, such as estrogen, and unusually high levels of certain hormones can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Alcohol can also directly damage the cells in our bodies, such as the cells of the liver. Enough damage to the cells of the liver can cause a disease called cirrhosis, which then increases your risk of developing liver cancer. So it seems that alcohol is a toxin that can attack your body in many different ways, making it more likely to develop cancer and harder for your body to fight off cancer. So how much is too much alcohol? Well, we say any alcohol is too much because according to research for every 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day (slightly less than 1 drink) you can increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer by 7 to 12 percent (National Cancer Institute, 2013).

The take home message from this is that when it comes to cancer any drinking is risky drinking. So take the BeYou Promise and join other Canadians in the commitment to being the best, and healthiest, you that you can be.