Thursday, March 12, 2015



 
             Alcohol use among active military and veterans is a major health issue.
Throughout military history, holding one’s liquor has been akin to a “real soldier, on par with knowing how to handle one’s weapon. Heavy drinking glamorized the culture of those serving in uniform. Following active duty, veterans who served abused alcohol. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was linked to battlefield experience.

            Alcohol causes cancers of the esophagus, mouth, pancreas, larynx, and liver. There is no risk-free level. The more alcohol a person drinks, the higher the cancer risk. Alcoholic beverages contain at least fifteen cancer-causing compounds. These include acetaldehyde, acrylamide, aflatoxins, arsenic, benzene, cadmium, ethanol, ethyl carbamate, formaldehyde, and lead. The most toxic alcohol product is acetaldehyde.

            The fine cilia of the esophagus can be be destroyed by high alcohol concentrations in “hard liquor”. Smoking has long been established as a cancer risk factor. Heavy smoking combined with heavy liquor is especially dangerous. 

            The rate of ethanol metabolism is determined by genetics. Ingested ethanol is changed to acetaldehyde, present in alcoholic beverages. Over time, acetaldehyde can cause cancer of the throat, pharynx, mouth, esophagus, and larynx. Alcohol interacts with folate metabolism and inhibits nutrient absorption from the gut. Poor absorption interacts with ethanol to impair DNA. Alcohol increases estrogen levels, which stimulate cell growth. Other cancer mechanisms include production of reactive oxygen, nitrogen, and tobacco use. The mouth, intestines, liver, and esophagus have the greatest risk for alcohol related cancer. 

            Avoiding alcohol could prevent up to eighty percent of oral and ninety percent of larynx cancer cases. Those who have health problems related to alcohol should quit all forms of use. Warning labels should convey risks associated with alcohol in simple language. Reduction of alcohol consumption is the cost-effective way to reduce disease.

            The more alcohol is consumed in any country, the more alcohol-related diseases occur. Price and availability are tools to decrease consumption. Price is regulated by taxation. Drunk-driving policies and health service measures have some effect. Health information campaigns are valuable for control measures. A return to prohibition isn’t necessary. Increased public awareness would reduce risk. Patients should be informed and concerned about overall risk. Here are strategies to reduce cost and disease burdens. 

Monitor your alcohol intake ("know your number"). This is similar to knowing your blood pressure, weight, Body Mass Index, cholesterol level, blood sugar, and calorie intake. Limit alcohol consumption to twenty grams per day for men and fifteen for women. This is about one and a half drinks for men and one drink for women.  
Less is more. Lower alcohol consumption leads to better health and longer lifespan.
Take a day off. Avoiding alcohol for one to two days weekly lowers risk.