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Just one or two

Karen Miller

While HPV is a growing risk factor in the incidence of oral cancer, tobacco and heavy alcohol use are top contributors as well. What’s more, using both tobacco and alcohol puts a person at greater risk than either of these habits alone. In addition, some studies suggest that tobacco and alcohol use increase the risk of both HPV-associated and HPV-independent head and neck cancers.

The American Cancer Society defines low to moderate use of alcohol as one to two drinks a day for a man or one drink a day for a woman. One drink equals one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits, such as whiskey or rum.

For some, however, it is hard to hold the line at just one or two. In addition, many people are not aware that their drinking has grown out of control. For them, alcohol is often a part of socializing, celebration and even relaxation.

Yet, it is important to acknowledge and understand the effects of excessive alcohol use on a person’s body and personal life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol use can lead to an increased risk of several health problems and is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death for people in the United States each year.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has developed screening tools to aid in identifying people with alcohol problems.


Here are some steps to consider:

  • Start by asking questions: How much and how often do you drink? Has your drinking been harmful in any way? For instance, has it jeopardized your health or your job? Talk to your doctor or check online for quizzes to help you assess your drinking habits and get information on cutting back or stopping.
  • Consider joining a self-help group. Best known is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which outlines a 12-step program for its members to follow and offers plenty of support. An alternative is SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training), a nonprofit, non-spiritual group focusing on a range of addictive behaviors. Family members may find Al-Anon or Alateen helpful.
  • Seek counseling from a substance abuse professional if you cannot stop drinking or need additional support.
  • Ask your doctor if medicines might help. Medication can often help ease withdrawal symptoms, block the high from alcohol, defuse cravings or relieve depression or anxiety.
  • Heavy drinkers require a specialized, intensive program, including detoxing to get alcohol out of the body. Be sure to consult your doctor.

CAGE: A self-test

Answering the following four questions using the letters CAGE can help you find out if you or a loved one has a drinking problem:

Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?

Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?

Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?

Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover, as an “Eye-opener”?

Two positive responses are considered a positive test and indicate further assessment is warranted.

For more information visit