What Is The Relationship Between Substance Abuse

What Is The Relationship Between Substance Abuse & Risk Of Cancer? Here Are Tips To Reduce The Risk

What Is The Relationship Between Substance Abuse & Risk Of Cancer? Here Are Tips To Reduce The Risk

Substance addiction encompasses the misuse of alcohol, illegal substances, or prescription and over-the-counter medications. Distinguishing between use and abuse can be challenging, akin to navigating the complexities of cancer’s tertiary mechanisms. Factors such as poly-drug addiction, neglect of personal hygiene and health, among others, contribute to this ambiguity. Prolonged substance abuse heightens the likelihood of various health issues, including an increased risk of developing cancer. Dr. Niti Raizada, Director of Medical Oncology and Hemato-Oncology at Fortis Hospitals, Bangalore, sheds light on the correlation between substance abuse and cancer risk, along with strategies to mitigate this risk, in an interview with the Onlymyhealth editorial team.

What is the relationship between substance abuse and cancer?

1. Tobacco usage stands as the primary contributor to lung cancer, responsible for 80% of cancer-related deaths, with India alone witnessing 3,500 deaths per day. Its consumption, be it in the form of cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, or chewing tobacco, poses significant harm to health. Chewing tobacco, notably, heightens the risk of oral cavity and pancreatic cancers, while exposure to secondhand smoke escalates the likelihood of lung cancer.

2. Alcohol often becomes appealing to individuals seeking relief from feelings of isolation, fear, or depression. Recent data from the Lancet Oncology Journal links heavy alcohol consumption to 5% of cancer diagnoses last year, with the National Cancer Institute attributing 3.5% of deaths to alcohol-related causes. The carcinogenic impact of alcohol arises from its disruption of DNA repair mechanisms, leading to conditions like cirrhosis and breast cancer. Moreover, its synergistic effect with tobacco increases the susceptibility to head and neck cancers due to heightened absorption of carcinogens.

3. Anabolic steroids, though prescribed for various medical conditions to mimic testosterone effects and enhance muscle mass or physical performance, are frequently misused by athletes and bodybuilders. However, their abuse heightens the risk of prostate cancer in men and endometrial cancer in women.

4. Opioids, potent central nervous system depressants, exert a suppressive effect on critical bodily functions such as blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and temperature regulation. Addiction to opioids escalates the risk of respiratory depression, overdose, and fatality.

5. Some individuals attempt to alleviate physical symptoms by resorting to marijuana or abusing medical marijuana, thereby increasing the risk of testicular cancer, particularly among younger users. Research suggests that marijuana smoke may contain carcinogens linked to testicular cancer. Furthermore, individuals grappling with high levels of stress, anxiety, or depression may turn to benzodiazepines like Valium or Xanax. Apart from the general hazards associated with substance abuse, cancer patients face additional complications, including reduced treatment efficacy and treatment-related side effects such as nausea and vomiting.

Cancer due to substance abuse

According to Dr. Niti, here are some useful tips to reduce the risk of cancer due to substance abuse:

  • Maintain a healthy body and immune system by eating lots of fruits and vegetables which helps in accelerated recovery.
  • Avoid Tobacco and Alcohol.
  • Healthy weight maintenance and physical activity can reduce the risk of various types of cancer, including breast, prostate, lung, and kidney cancers.
  • Learn about dealing with stress, depression, and anxiety. Identifying and managing mental health problems, in addition to drug testing, can help reduce this risk.
  • If you need professional help, ask for it.
  • Regular self-exams and screenings can help catch cancer early and increase the likelihood of successful treatment.