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Iceland - alcohol and cancer


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The Icelandic Cancer Society

The main role of the Icelandic Cancer Society is to be at the forefront of the fight against cancer.

Alcohol and cancer

For most cancers, the more you drink and the longer you drink, the more likely you are to get alcohol-related cancer.

Alcohol and cancer

A number of studies have shown a link between alcohol consumption and several types of cancer and numerous other diseases. Therefore, alcohol consumption has been classified as a known carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). For most cancers, the more you drink and the longer you drink, the more likely you are to get alcohol-related cancer.

Alcohol in any form can increase the risk of cancer, as alcohol as such causes harm. The main types of alcoholic beverages are wine, beer and spirits, but all alcoholic beverages can cause cancer. Alcoholic drinks contain varying amounts of alcohol.

There are several reasons why alcohol causes cancer. Different types of cancers are likely to be caused by various causes, for example:

  • Ethanol and acetaldehyde: Alcohol (ethanol) is converted in our body into the compound acetaldehyde. Both ethanol and acetaldehyde are carcinogenic.

  • Cirrhosis of the liver: Alcohol damages liver cells and can cause cirrhosis of the liver, which increases the risk of cancer.

  • Hormones: Alcohol can increase the levels of some hormones, such as estrogen. High levels of estrogen increase the risk of breast cancer.

Tobacco smoking combined with alcohol consumption, is a particularly worrying mixture and multiplies cancer risk. Drinking alcohol makes it easier for the tissues in the mouth and throat to absorb carcinogens from tobacco smoke. This is one of the reasons why people who drink and smoke multiply the tissue damage and are at particular risk of getting cancer of the mouth and throat (upper respiratory tract) and oesophagus (upper gastrointestinal tract).

Stopping or significantly reducing alcohol consumption reduces cancer risk after a few years, but may not entirely eliminate the risk, depending on how much and for how long you have been drinking. It is also important to remember that smoking tobacco with alcohol is the worst mixture for health and to reduce the risk of cancer, you should both stop smoking and stop drinking alcohol.

Source: The Icelandic Cancer Society

The men´s room

Although it is sometimes claimed that moderate alcohol consumption could have some positive health effects, it is clear that the adverse effects always weigh much more heavily. Alcohol consumption can, therefore, not be justified under the banner of health benefits.  

The amount of alcohol matters. The higher the amount, the higher the risk of cancer. Although it is best to stop drinking alcohol altogether, it is important to remember that it is always beneficial to reduce consumption: the less quantity, the less risk.

Here are some ways to reduce your consumption:

  • Make sure you do not have a large amount of alcohol in the home. Having alcohol in the home increases the likelihood that it will be drunk.

  • It is good to establish rules or habits regarding alcohol in the home and review them regularly. For example, is it possible to skip wine with the Sunday meal or limit drinking to one glass with the meal?

  • When you have a dinner party, it is good not to add too much to the guests' glasses, because then everyone is more likely to lose track of how much they drink.

  • It is not advisable to use alcohol to relax after a busy day. Another way to relax is to go for a walk, swim or take a hot bath.

Find more from The Men´s Room

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Mottumars is the Cancer Society's annual project, which is both an awareness-raising about men's cancer and fundraising for the society. This year we focus on the value of exercise that prevents cancer. Research shows that regular exercise reduces the risk of cancer, and exercise is beneficial for people who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Among other health tips, the project urges men to avoid alcohol because all alcohol types increase the risk of cancer. Less is always better.
Alcohol is a confirmed carcinogen. Alcohol consumption increases the risk of seven different cancers: mouth and throat, larynx, oesophagus, stomach, liver, colon and rectum and breasts. The amount of alcohol matters. The more you drink, the more likely you are to get cancer. Although it is best to stop drinking alcohol altogether, it is important to remember that it is always beneficial to reduce consumption.

Visit Mottumars

8 January 2021: The Cancer Society's response to news of the sale of alcohol in Vínbúðir

There was a record sale of alcohol in Vínbúðir in 2020. Even though the explanation can be found in fewer trips to restaurants or the Duty-Free Store, it is worth pausing and reminding that alcohol consumption is a risk factor for cancer.

According to a report in Morgunblaðið, alcohol sales in 2020 in Vínbúðin turned out to be the highest ever. The increase is almost entirely due to the extensive impact of COVID-19, as much lower sales took place in the Duty-Free Store and restaurants and bars. Whether this means more or less alcohol than Icelanders usually consume on an annual basis, it is ideal for reminding that alcohol is not an ordinary consumer product.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classification, alcohol is a confirmed human carcinogen, and alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, breast, colon and rectum. In addition, many other adverse effects of alcohol consumption are known, such as on the functioning of the brain, liver, cardiovascular system, mental health, increased risk of accidents, violence and suicide, and so on.

Alcohol consumption is integrated into Icelandic society and culture in various ways and is taken for granted on numerous occasions. In various forums, including social media, alcohol consumption is praised. It is shown positively as a great connection to the various opportunities when people get together.

People need to be aware of the harmful effects of drinking alcohol.

Many people probably drink alcohol almost thoughtlessly on various occasions. However, it is safe to recommend that people try to be aware of how often and how much they drink because many people could reduce their alcohol consumption by having an overview and by using systematic methods with that in mind. To name a few, you can decide in advance on what occasions to drink and when not to, also decide in advance the amount, mix weaker drinks, use smaller wine glasses and do not give in to pressure from others.

The less is better - for your health.

Source: The Icelandic Cancer Society

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