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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 12    Issue 15   01 - 15 January 2018

Alcohol and Cancer

Minaret Research Network

Habitual alcohol consumption increases the risk of alcoholic hepatitis as well as the inflammation and destruction of liver cells, which may result in cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. Alcohol abuse increases the risk for cancers of the mouth, lungs, pancreas and intestine. It also affects the central nervous system. Alcohol is believed to damage a person’s DNA, making him susceptible to the risk of cancer. Heavy drinkers face a much higher risk of mouth and throat cancer, cancer of the voice box, liver cancer and, to a lesser extent, colorectal cancer. Recent medical evidence suggests that alcohol increases levels of the hormone oestrogen, thereby increasing the risk of breast cancer in women. The World Health Organisation estimates that about 2.5 million deaths worldwide are attributable to alcohol abuse.

A report published in The Lancet on June 26, 2009 blamed the excessive consumption of alcohol for more than half of all deaths among Russians in their prime years and said that the scale of the tragedy is comparable to a war situation. There are an estimated 2.3 million alcoholics in the country. The report said that three-quarters of deaths among men and half of deaths among women aged 15-54 were attributable to alcohol abuse. The mortality rate in this age group in Russia is five times higher for men and three times higher for women than in western Europe. It is estimated that alcohol has killed three million Russians since 1987. Life expectancy in the country has slumped since the collapse of the Soviet Union and is now 70.9 years.

About 34 per cent of Americans are addicted to alcohol, and heavy drinking is the third leading preventable cause of death in the US. Nearly 80,000 Americans and more than 20,000 Britons die each year as a result of heavy drinking. Drinking in excess -- called binge drinking -- is rapidly spreading among young girls and boys in Britain and many other European countries. In the UK, nearly six million people are believed to be binge drinkers. Recent reports indicate that young women are out-drinking men.

Recent clinical researches have brought out the linkage between alcohol and certain types of cancer. The American Society of Clinical Oncology, which represents many of the country’s top cancer specialists, has emphasized the close linkage between cancer and alcohol. In a statement issued in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, published in December 2017, the Society cites evidence that even light drinking can raise a woman’s risk of breast cancer and increase the chances of a common type of esophageal cancer.

According to a report released by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund, for women, just one alcoholic drink a day increases the risk of breast cancer. The report, which is based on an analysis of 119 research studies, concluded that there was strong evidence that alcohol consumption increases the risk of both pre- and post-menopausal cancer and that drinking a small glass of wine or beer every day increases pre-menopausal risk by 5% and post-menopausal risk by 9%.

Islam has forbidden the consumption of alcohol and all other intoxicating beverages and substances. The Prophet (SAAW) is reported to have said, “Every intoxicant is unlawful and whatever causes intoxication in large amounts, a small amount of it is (also) unlawful.” While appreciating the Islamic prohibition of alcohol, the renowned historian Arnold J. Toynbee, said: “We can, however, discern certain principles of Islam which, if brought to bear on the social life of the new cosmopolitan proletariat, might have important salutary effects on ‘the great society’ in a nearer future. Two conspicuous sources of danger, one psychological and the other material, in the present relations of this cosmopolitan proletariat with the dominant element in our modern Western society are race consciousness and alcohol; and in the struggle with each of these evils the Islamic spirit has a service to render which might prove, if it were accepted, to be of high moral and social value.”

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