Alcohol & the Pancreas: Pancreatic Cancer | Wellness Retreat

Alcohol & the Pancreas: Pancreatic Cancer Awareness

The pancreas is one of the most essential organs in the human body. It’s directly responsible for converting food into energy. The pancreas regulates blood sugar and an endocrine function that keeps the body healthy.

When the pancreas begins to malfunction, a person faces various consequences, including pain, malnutrition, weight loss, stomach problems, and more. If left untreated, pancreatic conditions could lead to several life-threatening complications.

Increased alcohol consumption is one of the factors that cause the pancreas to malfunction. Consistent intake could lead to pancreatic cancer.

The Role of the Pancreas

The pancreas is an integral part of healthy body functions. It has two major roles:


Food needs to be processed and broken down into energy and waste when it enters the body. That’s where the pancreas comes in. It contains exocrine glands that secrete enzymes to initiate proper digestion.

As the food travels through the body, the pancreas releases juices that work in tandem with other digestive juices to help a person process fats, carbs, and proteins.

Endocrine Function

Besides digestive juices, the pancreas creates essential hormones. They enter the blood and carry messages to different parts of the body. These hormones include:

  • Insulin – the hormone responsible for the sugar levels in the body.
  • Glucagon – the hormone responsible for increasing sugar levels when they are low.
  • Gastrin – the hormone responsible for stimulating the stomach to produce gastric juices.
  • Amylin – the hormone responsible for controlling the appetite.

the pancreas and the Endocrine system

Maintaining proper blood sugar levels is highly important to a person’s well-being. As soon as something goes wrong with the abovementioned hormones, such organs as the brain, liver, and kidneys begin to suffer.  

Common health issues with the pancreas include:

  • Diabetes – when the pancreas doesn’t produce sufficient insulin, the person may develop diabetes. If not addressed, diabetes could lead to long-term health issues.
  • Pancreatitis – this condition occurs due to the inflammation of the pancreas. It happens when digestive juices produced by the organ begin attacking healthy pancreatic cells. The most common cause of this condition is gallstones. Another risk factor is alcohol. It can cause chronic pancreatitis.
  • Pancreatic cancer often originates in the cells that produce digestive enzymes. When it progresses, the lack of pancreatic enzymes affects digestion.

Monitoring pancreatic health is the key to ensuring the body’s proper functions. So is avoiding lifestyle choices that could lead to issues with the pancreas.

The Pancreas and Alcohol

Heavy alcohol intake can increase the risk of a person developing pancreas problems.  Related conditions may include:

Alcohol and Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a painful condition that can have a variety of causes. One of them may be heavy alcohol consumption. While studies demonstrate that alcohol alone can’t solely be responsible for developing this condition,  the drinking habit can contribute to it.

Research shows that alcohol and the byproducts of metabolizing it can predispose the pancreas to damage from risks that don’t usually cause pancreatitis. Additionally, it can worsen the effect of agents that generally lead to mild pancreatic impairment. Overall, alcohol predisposes pancreatic cells to damage.

Pancreatitis can be both acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis causes severe pain but usually goes away in a few days. Chronic pancreatitis leads to chronic pain and associated digestive problems.

Regular heavy drinking can increase the risk of developing chronic pancreatitis. According to research, alcohol consumption is responsible for up to 80% of cases of chronic pancreatitis.

alcohol and pancreatitis

Alcohol and Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer begins in the cells of the pancreas. While highly curable at its early stages, this type of cancer is rarely detected before it spreads to other organs. This has to do with a lack of early-stage symptoms.

If a person is at risk of developing pancreatic cancer, their healthcare provider may arrange regular screenings to catch cancer early. People who have a history of heavy alcohol consumption may be at risk.

Alcohol is a proven carcinogen, and alcohol abuse can increase a person’s risk of health problems. At least 18% of cancers that Americans live with may, in part, be related to alcohol. Heavy drinking can lead to pancreatitis, which in turn, is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.

Research demonstrates that high alcohol intake can have a significant effect on increasing the risk of pancreatic cancer. Stopping drinking immediately can decrease the risk of cancer development and improve a person’s quality of life significantly.

Heavy Drinking Increases Pancreatic Cancer Mortality

A study by the American Cancer Society linked heavy drinking to increased pancreatic cancer mortality. The study demonstrated that consuming three or more drinks per day can increase a person’s chances of dying from pancreatic cancer. People who drink alcohol may be more likely to struggle with cancer and overall health.

Preventing Pancreatic Cancer

While it’s not possible to prevent pancreatic cancer, a person can decrease the risk of developing it by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Leading a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercising and a healthy diet
  • Arranging early screenings to catch cancer at its early stages

Alcohol use and pancreatic cancer are closely related. By quitting, a person decreases their chances of never developing the condition.

Heavy alcohol consumption prevents people from monitoring their health and leading a healthy lifestyle. This could cause them to miss essential symptoms that point to such illnesses as pancreatic cancer.

Alcohol use disorder is a serious health condition that requires professional treatment. Quitting without medical assistance isn’t just hard and painful. It’s prone to quick relapses. By getting professional help, it’s possible to battle the problem and stay alcohol-free for a lifetime.

Help Is Available

The effects of alcohol can be detrimental to a person’s physical health. Going through alcohol detoxification and rehabilitation alone is tedious and counterproductive. That’s why there isn’t anything wrong with asking for professional assistance.