Prostate Cancer

Can Drinking Alcohol Cause Prostate Cancer?

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men.

Fortunately, with early detection, it can often be treated with excellent results.

Researchers do not entirely know the actual causes of prostate cancer.

However, they have concluded that there are some risk factors that might cause healthy prostate cells to become cancer cells.

A risk factor is anything that raises your chances of getting a serious disease.

Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

Some factors which may increase your risk for prostate cancer include:

  • A raised risk after the age of 50.

  • A family history of prostate cancer.

  • Obesity.

  • Race – particularly as studies have shown that men of African ancestry are most at risk.

Contrary to an idea that some folks have, frequent sex does not pose any risks that can cause prostate cancer.

We can read the following in the webpage of the National Cancer Institute: Numerous studies have examined whether there is an association between alcohol consumption and the risk of other cancers.

Evidence is accumulating that alcohol is associated with increased risks of melanoma and of prostate and pancreatic cancers.

Medical authorities have countered opinions about the scientific data published so far. There is evidence that alcohol can increase the risk of prostate cancer, but it is sometimes inconsistent.

Men who are heavy drinkers and have a prostate cancer diagnosis may experience aggravated symptoms caused by alcohol intake.

How alcohol can affect the symptoms of prostate cancer.

The symptoms of prostate cancer may only appear at a later stage of the disease. They are often similar to those of an enlarged prostate in the beginning. These can include:

Frequent urination, especially at night (also known as nocturia).

• Difficulty urinating, and painful urination when the stream gets going.

• Blood in the urine (hematuria) or semen, and pain when ejaculating.

• Deep pain in the lower back, hips or pelvis can be a sign of advanced cancer.

Alcohol is a diuretic, and drinking too much can make you urinate more than usual. Regular drinking can also make it difficult to achieve or maintain an erection.

Alcohol also has a direct effect on narrowing the neck of the bladder, making it unable to be adequately emptied – further aggravating any symptoms.

Some of the symptoms may indeed be those of an enlarged prostate, namely benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH.

Medical tests will be able to establish whether cancer is present, or whether it is BPH which is not cancerous, and is not known to become cancerous.

Experts agree that even if you have a diagnosis of BPH, alcohol consumption should be limited.

Is it safe to drink alcohol if you have prostate cancer?

Whether it is safe to drink alcohol after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, depends on several factors.

These include how advanced the cancer is, and the amount of alcohol which is being ingested. Prostate cancer is often slow-growing, and the medical profession agrees that a small amount of alcohol per day will be fine.

However, if cancer has progressed to the point where treatment is required, then it would not be advisable to drink alcohol. This is as it can have an adverse effect on some medications, as well as other treatments, such as chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy side effects are potentially made worse by alcohol.

There are several risks to consider before drinking alcohol while having chemo treatment.

These include:

• Alcoholic beverages dehydrate the body. As a result, drinking could worsen any dehydration you may experience from chemotherapy.

• Mouth sores are common with chemo treatment. Alcohol can irritate the sores and cause more pain.

• Nausea and vomiting are significant side effects of chemotherapy treatment. Alcohol can cause inflammation in the stomach and worsen these symptoms.

• Chemo treatment is known to cause tingling and burning sensation in the hands and feet.

• Chronic alcohol use is known to damage the nerve endings in extremities like hands and feet, and aggravate the damage caused by chemotherapy.

• Your liver function may be impaired as the chemo drugs and alcohol are processed by the same enzymes which eliminate toxins. This can lead to serious issues, especially for those who have liver damage.

• If you are on other medications like antidepressants, painkillers, sleeping meds, and anti-nausea medications, while undergoing chemotherapy, you may experience detrimental reactions when combined with alcohol.

• Radiation therapy causes tiredness. Drinking alcohol will also add to the fatigue.

It is important to note that if you are receiving chemotherapy treatment for prostate cancer, your treatment will be compromised if you ingest alcohol.

More issues related to cancer and alcohol use.

• Studies have shown that alcohol can cause sleep disorders, and has been linked to a lower quality of life for people living with cancer. Whether you are in remission, or still receiving treatment, decent sleep is essential for your health and well-being.

• Many people, after a diagnosis of cancer, are very traumatized and may go into depression while still trying to process the news. Alcohol is a recognized depressant and may add to feelings of depression. Studies have indicated that suicide rates among people living with cancer are highest just after diagnosis, or while undergoing treatment.

• You may be suffering from anxiety as a result of a prostate cancer diagnosis. This can lead to a spike in your blood pressure. Drinking alcohol to drown your sorrows will only make it worse. Bring your numbers down by giving up, or drastically cutting down your alcohol intake.

In addition to cutting out alcohol, the key to keeping healthy and for a successful remission is to follow a healthy diet which includes plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Researchers have discovered that men who eat a lot of fatty red meat and high-fat dairy products have a higher risk of prostate cancer than those who don’t.

About the prostate and cancer.

The prostate is a small gland no bigger than a walnut, situated between the bladder and the penis, and just in front of the rectum.

The urethra, a tube carrying urine from the bladder, passes through the prostate to the penis for elimination from the body.

A major function of the prostate is the production of seminal fluid (semen) which protects the sperm on ejaculation as it travels towards the female egg.

Without semen, sperm cannot be ejaculated, and fertility is affected. A healthy prostate is therefore essential for a healthy urinary tract, as well as the production of sufficient seminal fluid to transport sperm for reproduction purposes.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Unfortunately, problems with the prostate can happen which throws a spanner in the works.

These issues usually begin with an enlarged prostate which squeezes the urethra, making it difficult to pass water.

Eventually, as the swelling progresses, the bladder will not be able to empty correctly, leaving you with a constant urge to urinate – albeit only a little at a time.

This condition is known as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) and is not cancerous. However, the symptoms of BPH and prostate cancer are very similar, and can easily be mistaken as one for the other.

BPH is not life-threatening, but cancer may be. Either way, you need medical intervention and tests to rule out or confirm the presence of cancer.

Prostatitis

The other condition which causes an enlarged prostate is called prostatitis.

Prostatitis is defined as swelling and inflammation of the prostate gland, caused by an infection. The infection often starts when urine containing common strains of bacteria, leaks into the prostate from the bladder.

The symptoms include :

  • Tenderness in the lower abdomen.

  • Pain when urinating.

  • Flu-like symptoms including chills and bodily aches and pains.

Prostatitis is successfully treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics work to combat infection, reduce swelling, and effectively cope with flu-like symptoms.

A diagnosis of prostate cancer is not the end of the world. Nor it is not the end of your sex life as some would have you believe.

Remember that the keys to success are early detection, and not ignoring symptoms – however mild they may be.

The diagnostic process of prostate cancer.

If you are in the 50 plus age group, then your risk of getting prostate cancer is increased.

Early detection may include a digital rectal examination for your doctor to feel for hard bumps on the prostate.

You will also be required to have a blood test to measure prostate-specific antigen (PSA) which is a protein produced by prostate cells.

Many factors can cause PSA to rise other than prostate cancer. These factors such as BPH, prostatitis, and urinary tract infections (UTI).

Therefore a high PSA level does not always indicate cancer.

The recommended method of establishing the presence of prostate cancer is a digital rectal examination. Depending on the results of both examinations, the doctor may order an ultrasound as a further test.

A prostate biopsy is another test the doctor might order should they suspect the presence of cancer. The procedure is done through a needle inserted into the prostate to withdraw tissue samples for examination.

Test results will indicate where things stand and plan the way forward if treatment is needed. However, it is important to be aware that a prostate biopsy can have several negative side effects, including infection, bleeding, and pain.

Conclusion

Getting diagnosed with prostate cancer can be a life-changing event.

Adjusting to it can also be daunting as it may require some serious lifestyle changes.

Adopting a completely new healthy diet high in nutrients, and low in unhealthy fats is essential to keep your immune system up and operating efficiently for your health and well-being.

Another lifestyle change that will be of significant benefit is to consider giving up drinking alcohol. Studies have shown that alcohol can compromise your remission and recovery from prostate cancer – for the following reasons:

• Note that alcohol is toxic to your cells. It also reacts negatively with chemo and other drugs – reducing their effectiveness while receiving treatment.

• Alcohol can prevent the liver from properly metabolizing drugs and other toxins.

• Alcoholic drinks are full of sugar, which has no nutritional value and is very acidic. Cancer of any description, including prostate, thrives in an acid environment.

• Nausea and vomiting side effects from chemo treatment may be worsened by alcohol which is known to irritate the stomach.

• Chemotherapy treatment often results in dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic that increases the amount of urine which enters the bladder. If the prostate gland is enlarged, it will be difficult for you to pass urine and completely empty the bladder. With your immune system already low, bacteria in the urine can easily lead to a urinary tract infection.

The bottom line is that drinking alcohol is not a risk factor for developing prostate cancer. But it is a risk factor if you continue drinking while you are having treatment or in remission.

This risk is something you can control, just as you can control poor eating habits – by means of some positive lifestyle changes.

However, you cannot control the major risk of prostate cancer, which is that of growing older.

The only thing you can do is to remain vigilant, and take any unusual symptoms to the doctor as soon as they appear. It could save your life.

Sources

  1. https://www.pcf.org/about-prostate-cancer/prostate-cancer-treatment/chemotherapy-prostate-cancer/
  2. Sesso, H, Paffenbarger, ,S, Lee, I. (2001). Alcohol consumption and risk of prostate cancer: The Harvard Alumni Health Study. International Journal of Epidemiology. 30 (4), p 749–755.
  3. https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/the-progression-of-liver-disease/
  4. Gann PH. Risk factors for prostate cancer. Rev Urol. 2002;4 Suppl 5(Suppl 5):S3–S10.
  5. Downer MK1,2, Kenfield SA2,3, Stampfer MJ1,2, Wilson KM1,2, Dickerman BA1, Giovannucci EL1,2, Rimm EB1,2, Wang M1, Mucci LA1,2, Willett WC1,2, Chan JM3, Van Blarigan EL3.. (2019). Alcohol Intake and Risk of Lethal Prostate Cancer in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 37 (17), p499-1511.
  6. Stein MD, Friedmann PD. Disturbed sleep and its relationship to alcohol use. Subst Abus. 2005;26(1):1–13.
  7. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/treatment/chemotherapy/living-with/alcohol

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