Heavy drinking raises oral cancer risk

By Drum Digital
17 May 2012

Heavy alcohol consumption is more damaging than cigarette smoking as far as the development of oral cancer is concerned, according to a Pretoria academic.

Professor Andre van Zyl, head of the University of Pretoria's department of periodontics and oral health, said in Cape Town that the youth, especially, should be aware of the risks associated with alcohol, Beeld reported on Thursday.

"We didn't have this information when we were young," he was quoted saying at a seminar held by the SA Dental Association on Wednesday. A drinker's risk of contracting oral and oropharyngeal cancer increased nine times, compared with a smoker's, whose risk was four times higher.

For someone who smoked and drank, the risk of oral cancers was 100 times higher. According to van Zyl, people who consumed four drinks a day could classify themselves as heavy drinkers.

Research had shown that beer was the most damaging, followed by spirits, and then wine. More than two glasses of wine a day should be regarded as too many, he said.

The damage was thought to be caused, partly, by the detrimental effects on human DNA of the ethanol in alcohol.

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