January 22 to January 28 is National Drug Facts Week. Organizations use this week to educate their communities on the dangers of different drugs. Partners for Prevention in Allegany County (PPAC) uses this week to highlight facts about certain drugs that people may not realize. Most people know that alcohol use can lead to loss of inhibitions, memory, decision-making skills, coordination, and physical controls which can all lead to harmful actions or even death. It is also known that when young people under the age of twenty-one drink, it increases their risk of being injured. In 2011, 188,000 people visited an emergency room due to alcohol related injuries1, physical or sexual assault, and annually 4,358 young people under the age of twenty-one lost their life due to alcohol related causes.1 But, did you know that alcohol use also raises the risk of getting cancer? Alcohol use has been linked to cancers of the: mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, liver, colon and rectum, and breast.2
You are probably thinking the risk of cancer is all dependent on what type of alcohol you drink…….wrong. Most evidence suggests that it is the ethanol that increases the risk of cancer. Ethanol is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks, whether they are wines, beers, liquors, or other drinks. Alcoholic drinks contain different percentages of ethanol, but in general, a standard drink of any type: 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor, contains about the same amount of ethanol, which is approximately half an ounce. Obviously, the stronger or larger drinks can contain more ethanol than half an ounce. So, in conclusion, the amount someone drinks over time, not the type of alcoholic beverage, seems to be the most important factor in raising the risk of getting cancer.
In theory, the earlier a person begins drinking, the more alcohol he will consume in his lifetime, which raises his risk for cancer. In Allegany County the high school rate of underage drinking is 22%. Adults need to have a conversation with the young people in their lives about consequences of alcohol use at a young age and the adult’s expectation that underage drinking is inappropriate and illegal. Children whose parents talk to them regularly about the dangers of underage drinking were 42% less likely to drink alcohol. Conversation resources for parents can be found at TALK2Prevent to help with starting the conversation about underage drinking.
Remember Prevention Works!