What to Know About Acute Myeloid Leukemia and Alcohol

Drinking alcohol has many proven health effects, including an increased risk of several types of cancer. This includes cancers such as breast cancer and liver cancer.

Alcohol is not known to increase your chances of developing acute myeloid leukemia (AML). However, drinking during AML treatment can have serious consequences for your overall health and recovery. It can even lead to permanent damage.

Alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer. However, there is no proven link between alcohol and an increased risk of any leukemia, including AML. Alcohol is a known risk factor for:

There is also growing evidence that alcohol consumption may be a risk factor for melanoma, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer. So while alcohol doesn’t specifically increase your risk for AML, it does increase your risk for many other cancers.

It’s also important to know that treatment for these other cancers can increase your risk of AML in the long term, as chemotherapy is a risk factor for AML.

In addition, while it is true that alcohol is not a risk factor for AML in adults, it is a risk factor for AML in children. Children exposed to alcohol in the womb have a higher risk of developing AML. This means that drinking alcohol may not increase your deductible for AML, but it may increase your child’s risk if you drink during pregnancy.

Heavy drinking can have a negative impact on the body. Not only does it increase your risk of several cancers, but it can weaken your immune system and slow your brain function. Over time, it can damage your heart, liver, and pancreas, leading to conditions such as:

Drinking alcohol while being treated for AML has additional effects on your body. It can worsen your symptoms, slow your recovery, and cause permanent damage. The main risks of drinking alcohol while you have AML include:

Impaired bone marrow function. Alcohol can interfere with the production of blood cells in your bone marrow. People with AML already have damaged bone marrow function, and it is likely that recent chemotherapy has further reduced your bone marrow function. Drinking along with AML and chemotherapy can significantly harm your bone marrow and blood cell production.Irritation of the stomach. AML treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can irritate your stomach and gastrointestinal (GI) tract and cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, and mouth sores. Alcohol causes similar irritation to your stomach and gastrointestinal tract. It can worsen the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.Stress on your liver. Chemotherapy treatments are processed by your liver and excreted from your body. This means that your liver is abnormally strained during chemotherapy treatment. Alcohol is also processed by your liver, and drinking it during chemotherapy can put enough strain on it to cause permanent damage. Sedative effects. Fatigue is a common symptom of AML. It can also be a side effect of medications you take to control pain and nausea. Alcohol is a sedative and can amplify the fatigue you are already experiencing.

As a rule, it is not considered safe to drink alcohol while you are being treated for AML. If you’re concerned about alcohol and treatment, it’s best to talk to a healthcare provider. Let them know how much you currently drink daily or weekly. They can guide you as you cut back slowly.

In some cases, you may not be able to stop completely and a health care professional can help you find an acceptably small amount. Whatever happens, it’s important that those on your healthcare team know what alcohol you drink during your AML treatment.

Quitting alcohol is a tough decision that can be challenging to stick to. However, in the long run, it is the best choice for your health. There are numerous resources you can turn to for support along the way:

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Treatment Navigator. This free tool helps you find medical care, therapists, and recovery programs in your area. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Helpline (SAMHSA). You can call this toll-free national helpline at 800-662-4357 for information and references to local resources. The helpline is available 24/7 in both English and Spanish. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA’s 12-step model has been helping people quit drinking for decades. You can find a local chapter through their website.SMART recovery. The SMART recovery model offers free mutual support meetings along with resources and tools that can help you quit. Women for sobriety. Women for Sobriety welcomes all women who want to quit alcohol or drugs with face-to-face meetings, online support, telephone counseling and other resources. Gays and Lesbians at Alcoholics Anonymous (GaL-AA). GaL-AA is a resource to help members of the LGBTQ community find welcoming and supportive AA gatherings.

There is no direct link between drinking alcohol and an increased risk of AML. However, drinking during pregnancy can increase the risk of AML in children.

Drinking alcohol during AML treatment is not considered safe. It can further limit your bone marrow’s ability to make blood cells, increase stomach and GI symptoms from chemotherapy and radiation, worsen fatigue from AML and drugs, and cause permanent liver damage.

A health care professional can help you cut down on alcohol slowly during your AML treatment.

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