Unit 7, 193 South Pine Road, Brendale QLD 4500 (07) 3205 7019 info@icefirephysiotherapy.com.au

Does alcohol affect the healing of bones & wounds and does it cause cancer?

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At IceFire Physiotherapy we take a whole-of-person or holistic approach to improving the well-being of our patients. Our clinics are located on the north side of Brisbane nestled among the suburbs of Albany Creek, Warner, Eatons Hill and Strathpine. We aim to help our clients enjoy a pain free high quality life. This is why we ask questions about the smoking and alcohol drinking habits of our patients. We understand that you may not wish to answer these questions and that is certainly not a problem; just let us know. Like many others, I and some of my team enjoy the taste of some beers and wines. Our surrounding suburbs include some very large and popular hotels & taverns. It is a great place to live. But does alcohol cause problems with healing and does it cause cancer?

Previously I have authored a blog post on how smoking tobacco delays healing. Some patients are surprised and interested to know that drinking alcohol also can cause problems with healing after fractures and wounds, and that alcohol can cause cancer.

Alcohol drinking & wound healing
A recent study reviewed past research and concluded that chronic heavy drinking of alcohol causes an increases likelihood (susceptibility) of tuberculosis, pneumonia, and HIV virus, and cardiovascular disease. Alarmingly a pattern of chronic heavy drinking increases the risks for morbidity (sicknesses) and mortality (death) following surgery.[1] There are over 60 health hazards associated with heavy drinking.[2] Of special interest to physiotherapy and hand therapy is the fact that chronic heavy drinking is associated with poor skin & bone wound healing. Chronic alcohol consumption (alcoholism) has been found to inhibit fracture healing of bones[4]. Even in a person who may not otherwise be an alcoholic, but has a high intake of alcohol at the time of receiving a penetrating wound, there is a much larger risk of having the wound become infected. A blood alcohol level (BAL) of >200 mg/dl at the time of a penetrating wound may result in infections being more than 2.5 times what they would otherwise be.[5]

How many drinks is considered heavy drinking?b>
But how many drinks do you need to consume a week to be classified as a heavy drinker according to the scientific research? Many might be surprised to learn that heavy drinking simply means that during a typical week a person has eight drinks or more per week for women, and 15 drinks or more for men. So if you are a woman who has just one drink a day and two on a Saturday night, then the medical literature refers to this pattern as heavy drinking. Similarly, a man who has 1 drink a day between Monday and Friday, and 10 drinks on the weekend, would also be regarded as being a heavy drinker. Sometimes a definition of at least 60 g of pure alcohol per day has been used to define a heavy drinker. [6]

Alcohol drinking and cancer
Cancer Council Australia noted that national data indicated that in 2010 more than 3,000 cases of cancer were due to alcohol consumption. It seems certain that alcohol drinking increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, stomach, bowel, liver and breast.[7]

It has been noted by Cancer Research UK that alcohol is one of the causes of seven different types of cancer. In the UK, alcohol drinking causes nearly 12,000 cases of cancer a year. Finally alcohol drinking is at least associated [8] with, if not a cause of, cancer of the pancreas and prostate.[9]

I hope this helps you understand why your physiotherapist at IceFire Physiotherapy, or your hand therapist at Northside Hand & Upper Limb Clinic, is asking about drinking and smoking during your first consultation. We simply want to inform you about the influence these products may have on how fast you heal. We consider that if patients are educated they can make informed decisions; perhaps even deciding to cut back such consumption while on the path to healing. Many of our patients from suburbs as diverse as Brendale, Cashmere, Strathpine, Eatons Hill, Warner and Albany Creek wish to know what they can do to help themselves get better faster.


[1] Sureshchandra, S et al., 2019, Chronic heavy drinking drives distinct transcriptional and 1 epigenetic changes in splenic macrophages, EBioMedicine 43: 594–606, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6557917/

[2] Davis, K, 2018, Ten health risks of chronic heavy drinking, MedicalNewsToday, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/297734.php

[3] Sureshchandra, S et al., 2019, Chronic heavy drinking drives distinct transcriptional and 3 epigenetic changes in splenic macrophages, EBioMedicine 43: 594–606, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6557917/

[4] Jung, K et al., 2011, Alcohol Exposure and Mechanisms of Tissue Injury and Repair, Alcohol Clin 4 Exp Res. 35(3): 392–399, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3117956/?report=reader

[5] Gentilello et al., 1993, Acute ethanol intoxication increases the risk of infection following 5 penetrating abdominal trauma, J. Trauma 34(5): 669-74, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8497001

[6] Roerecke & Rehm, 2014, Chronic heavy drinking and ischaemic heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Open Heart 1(1) https://openheart.bmj.com/content/1/1/e000135

[7] Cancer Council NSW, https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/2397/about-us/our-annual-reports-and-research-activity-reports/our-position-statements-about-cancer-council-nsw/alcohol-and- cancer2/

[8] Research UK, Does alcohol cause cancer?, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/alcohol-and-cancer/does-alcohol-cause-cancer

[9] Bagnardi et al, 2015, Alcohol consumption and site-specific cancer risk: a comprehensive dose- 9 response meta-analysis, Br J Cancer, 112(3):580-93, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25422909

by Jonathan Clerke - Principal Physiotherapist
IceFire Physiotherapy, Brendale (near the suburbs of Eatons Hill, Warner,Albany Creek, Carseldine, Strathpine and Bald Hills)

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