An interesting study recently declared that there is actually a worse habit for your oral (and overall) health than smoking cigarettes—and nearly 7 out of 10 U.S. adults do it on a regular basis. Any guesses? If you said drinking alcohol, you’d be correct. According to the department for Periodontics and Oral Health at the University of Pretoria, the risk for contracting oral or pharyngeal cancer is four times higher for someone who smokes cigarettes verse someone who drinks, where the risk then increases up to nine times more for contracting some form of oral-related cancer.
What’s worse than that is when people combine drinking and smoking together on a regular basis, which skyrockets the risk factor up to 100 times higher than not engaging in those activities at all. It is not entirely surprising, though, that combining these habits increases the overall risk, since studies show there has always been a strong indication that alcohol enhances the effects of carcinogenic chemicals (such as tobacco).
Research in this new study showed that beer was in fact the most damaging drink to influence these findings, followed by spirits, and then wine. What researchers found to be so detrimental about alcohol in the first place is the damaging effect that the ingredient ethanol has on human DNA. Acetaldehyde—the byproduct of metabolized alcohol—can actually damage the DNA in cells, and may eventually formulate into mutagenic DNA. Moreover, excessive consumption of ethanol also makes the mouth, larynx, pharynx, and esophagus more susceptible to cancer.
The question now remains—do we need to start putting the same graphic warning labels on alcohol that we have now for cigarettes? According to the research, maybe so.