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reviewed 12/2/2020

How alcohol damages your body

Quitting drinking can reverse some of the harms caused by alcohol.

Most of us know that, in the short term, alcohol can lead to poor behavior and accidents. What may be less known is that long-term, heavy drinking can damage organs and raise your risk for cancer.

Brain: Long-term, heavy drinking can shrink the brain. This can impair coordination, sleep, learning and memory. Binge drinking and long-term, heavy drinking both increase the risk for stroke.

Mouth and throat: Drinking alcohol raises the risk for cancers of the mouth, throat and voice box.

Heart: Drinking alcohol can lead to high blood pressure and arrhythmias. It can also weaken the heart and may lead to heart failure.

Breast: Women who drink alcohol have an increased risk for breast cancer.

Lungs: People who drink heavily have an increased risk for lung infections, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Liver: Heavy drinking raises the risk for liver cancer, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Stomach: Alcohol can make stomach ulcers worse.

Kidneys: Binge drinking can cause sudden kidney failure.

Pancreas: Regular, excessive drinking inflames the pancreas and increases the risk for pancreatic cancer.

Colon: Heavy drinking raises the risk for colorectal cancer.

Do you have a drinking problem?

Find out.

Sources: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; National Kidney Foundation

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