April is Alcohol Awareness Month
SUMMARY: Alcohol causes a host of health problems, from liver disease to heart issues to halitosis. This month, U.S. health officials are raising awareness about this drug.
Posted: April 10, 2014
This month marks Alcohol Awareness Month, a nationwide campaign to deepen understanding about the health and social problems caused by drinking too much. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) encourages you to take time to learn how excessive drinking can impact health and evaluate your own drinking habits. While alcohol damages organs and parts throughout body, it also spells trouble for a healthy mouth, causing problems like throat cancer, halitosis and more.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains that almost 95 percent of people who suffer from alcoholism don't know they have it. That means that people from many different backgrounds and all walks of life should listen up this month. Excessive drinking hits home more than we may think, affecting hundreds of thousands of youth, college students and adults each year.
Binge drinking is the most common form of excessive alcohol consumption according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is defined as consuming five or more drinks during a single occasion for men and four or more drinks during a single occasion for women. For men, heavy drinking entails consuming 15 or more drinks per week and for women, drinking eight or more drinks per week.
Alcohol causes a host of health troubles, from heart problems to liver disease to cancer. The drug is considered a carcinogen, which means it has the ability to cause cancer. Regular alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for cancers of the oral cavity, throat and voice box. Drinking around five standard drinks per day raises the chances of these cancers by 20 percent compared with non-drinkers.
Researchers have found several alcohol triggers for cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, it primarily does so by metabolizing ethanol into acetaldehyde, which is a toxic chemical and likely human carcinogen. Acetaldehyde can damage both DNA and proteins. Overdrinking also generates reactive oxygen species (chemically reactive molecules that contain oxygen) that damage DNA, proteins and lipids (fats) through a process called oxidation.
Lastly, alcohol impairs the body's ability to break down and absorb nutrients that may be associated with cancer risk, such as vitamin A, vitamin B complex, folate, vitamin C and carotenoids.
Alcohol typically serves as a drying agent, stripping the mouth of saliva that helps fight off infection. When dried out, the mouth becomes susceptible to bacteria growth, which spurs halitosis, cavities and gum disease.
Alcohol Awareness Month is a wake up call for all those who binge drink and partake in heavy drinking, not only in April but throughout the year.