Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Binge drinking in college can affect cancer risk later in life

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Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)

(Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)

Research has found that drinking alcohol throughout one’s life can lead to an increased chance of developing certain types of cancers later in life, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Alcoholic beverages are known carcinogens, which are substances and exposures that can lead to cancer, according to cancer.org. Therefore, the more alcohol a person drinks – especially if it is consumed regularly over time – the higher his or her risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer is.

This affects an estimated 3.5 percent of people in the United States (about 19,500), who die from alcohol-related cancer each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

According to Cancer Research UK, alcohol can cause seven types of cancer – mouth and upper throat, larynx, esophagus, breast, liver and bowel.

Scientifically, alcohol in our bodies gets converted into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde. This chemical can cause cancer by damaging our DNA and stopping our cells from repairing the damage it has caused. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified acetaldehyde formed as a result of drinking alcohol as being a cause of cancer, along with alcohol itself.

Drinking and smoking can multiply a person’s chances for developing cancer in one’s lifetime, since alcohol makes it easier for the mouth and throat to absorb the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco, according to Cancer Research UK.

UMatter at UMass states that 74 percent of students at the University of Massachusetts have had alcohol in the past month. Most students average four drinks when they party and drink two days per week. The average number of drinks consumed per week among UMass students is eight, as males average 11 drinks per week and females average seven.

To put these numbers into perspective, if a female could have seven drinks over the course of a week and the school year lasts about 36 weeks, she could have consumed about 252 drinks during the school year. For men, the presumptuous total would be 396 drinks.

That is a lot of alcohol.

I think it’s safe to say the majority of people know alcohol isn’t healthy for them, especially not at the pace college students are drinking.

The real question is, if students knew that drinking so much alcohol just in their four or five years of college could give them a much higher risk of getting cancer later in life, would this change how much they actually drank?

My thoughts? Probably not. It’s hard for anyone to put into perspective the harms of things they’re doing right now if they’re not going to see the effects of them until much later in life.

The stigma behind alcohol is very real. As UMatter at UMass tells us, only 13 percent of UMass students do not drink. Alcohol has become the core around which many people socialize, have fun and meet new people. If you walk into any class on a Monday, you are bound to hear someone around you talking about how drunk they got the past weekend, the stupid things they Snapchatted or updates they have gotten from others after blacking out.

It seems to be a never-ending competition of who can drink the most and, basically, come out alive.

Cancer caused by alcohol is completely preventable. No, I don’t think if people know these statistics it’s going to stop them from drinking. And no, I don’t think everyone in college drinks until they pass out. But my hope is that being informed may help some take a step back and look at what they’re putting into their bodies, and whether or not it will be worth the risk in the long run.

Devyn Giannetti is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]

About the Writer
Devyn Giannetti, Editor in Chief

Devyn Giannetti was the 2017-18 editor in chief and was managing editor during the 16-17 academic year. She graduated in 2018 as a journalism and communication double major, with a minor in psychology and loved creating strong relationships with everyone on the staff. She enjoys writing about human rights issues and the workforce, and loves supporting the office through food contributions.

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