Alcohol – the NET Effect


Social Media is currently full of ‘Dry January’ articles and of course many charities will benefit as people will be motivated if they are abstaining from alcohol for a good cause. Nothing wrong with that and no doubt some individuals will also see it as a way to cut down or at least lessen the effects of a very wet December!

I’ve never been a big drinker but I do like the odd beer now and then.  When I was diagnosed with metastatic Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs), I hadn’t really thought much about how this might affect my body. It wasn’t until I studied a bit more about my disease and the consequences of my treatment, that I decided I would cut right down.  This turned out to be a pretty drastic cut as I can count the number of alcoholic drinks I consumed in any year since diagnosis on one hand – but read on below.

So what’s the deal with alcohol and Neuroendocrine Cancer?

There are some who might say that any alcohol is not good for any cancer patient. However, if your digestive system and your liver have been compromised by both disease and treatment, then is it perhaps best not to ‘stoke the beast’?   In fact, there are specific references to alcohol and its potential effect on a Neuroendocrine Cancer patient, particularly those who suffer from the syndromes associated with Neuroendocrine Cancer, e.g. Carcinoid Syndrome.

Alcohol is frequently mentioned as a trigger for Carcinoid Syndrome symptoms particularly flushing and this is possibly due to the levels of ‘syndrome triggering amines’ that it contains. It is in fact one of the 5 E’s using its synonym of ‘Ethanol’.  Many of us do feel a warm sensation in our faces (and beyond) when we drink alcohol as it can dilate blood vessels.  On the basis that some will react worse than others (…flush), then you can see why alcohol can be a trigger for flushing.  However, despite other reasons existing for alcohol related flushing, these triggers can often be important clues in diagnosing carcinoid syndrome.  Alcohol is second only to large meals in the list of foodstuffs reported to provoke reactions according references here.

But the odd beer does not make me flush?

I guess I’m lucky in that respect as I have read stories from people who cannot tolerate a single drop!  But there is another reason why I will not be rushing down to the pub to ‘sink a few’ and I guess this could apply to anyone who has a compromised system.   Food in your diet (and this includes alcohol) must be digested before being absorbed by your cells.  The problem with alcohol however, is that it flows directly through your body’s membranes into your bloodstream and your bloodstream carries alcohol to every organ in your body.  I don’t really want to add too much fuel to the smouldering remains of my body.  There is emerging scientific evidence linking alcohol to certain cancers – read more here in this excellent article from Cancer Research UK.

However, like anything in life, you can assess and then manage and mitigate the risks associated with an activity.  Things that can be potentially harmful in large amounts can still be enjoyable with disciplined moderation.  So, I will still be maintaining my very conservative regime but I doubt I will ever hit double figure beers in a single year.  A beer is now a very special treat at Birthdays, New Year, ‘Cancerversaries‘ and special holidays …….a reminder that I still live.


Thanks for reading.


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10 thoughts on “Alcohol – the NET Effect

  • Charles

    I was just told I tested positive for a carcinoid tumor in my small intestines … I have every symptom possible … I’m a 54 male … I go see an oncologist for the first time next week … I’m married with 3 daughters and two grandchildren … IM BEYOND TERRIFIED … I’m really having a hard time physically and emotionally … can someone give me some advice … I do not to die … where it’s located they say it’s impossible to get a biopsy… it’s a little bigger than an egg yolk … blood pressure is all over the place … heart rate goes crazy … and the burning season is nerve racking … the fatigue … I’m wiped out … dizzy shaky … life has stopped for me and I feel alone … and scared

  • I haven’t had any alcohol since my PRRT but before that I might has well have had a large drink of fire. It burns my stomach like lava. To be honest I miss a glass of wine when I am stressed or a little depressed. 🙂

  • Katy Marriott

    Hi Ronny. As an occasional social drinker I thought this was not going to be a real issue and doctors said there wasn’t a major issue with occasional drinking. I have discovered that any “fizzy” drink, which includes beer and only needs to be one glassful, tends to make me blow up like a balloon. All this pressure then needs to be released somehow! I’ll leave you to imagine the consequences!! We went out to celebrate our wedding anniversary last night and I had one very nice glass of (still) white wine. Woke up in the middle of the night burning hot and feeling completely dessicated. I read this post this morning and agree completely with your conclusions. I am now a “very special occasion only” drinker. Fortunately in NZ we have a wide range of nice fruit juices to drink. Enjoying your posts.

    • thanks for the feedback. Yes alcohol is one of those things which has different effects on people. I can tolerate a beer now and then. I even had two on Burns night ….. 🙂

  • This is the first time I’ve seen or heard anything on the topic of NETS and alcohol. I’ve never been a heavy drinker either, but I do enjoy a glass of wine from time to time. That has not changed since diagnosis, but perhaps it’s something I should ask my doctors about.

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