I hate to be a bummer, especially during the hottest summer in a while, but…it seems that alcohol might cause cancer.
A paper published this month in the journal Addiction aimed to qualify the strength of the evidence that alcohol is causative in cancer.
A review of recent research showed evidence that:
- Alcohol was causative in seven types of cancer: oropharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast.
- There was also evidence of “gradient effects” meaning that the more you drink, the greater your risk.
- There was some evidence of reversibility of risk in cancers of the larynx, pharynx and liver, which means when the consumption was stopped the risk decreased.
At any rate, the study conclusion is an ominous paragraph:
“There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others. Current estimates suggest that alcohol-attributable cancers at these sites make up 5.8% of all cancer deaths world-wide.”
The biological mechanism–how alcohol actually causes cancer–is yet to fully be determined by research, but what the study suggests is that drinking and cancer are linked whether we like it or not.
What About the Health Benefits of Wine?
The study does say this:
“The same, or similar, epidemiological studies also commonly report protection from cardiovascular disease associated with drinking but a high level of scepticism regarding these findings is now warranted.”
What Should I Do?
Those of you in my practice know me to be a reasonable and moderate doctor. So what does this mean for the lovely gin and tonic you were planning to have on the dock this afternoon?
Is that lovely gin and tonic a treat or a habit? Is it a daily occurrence that is turning into two (Fine, three.) gins on the dock and a glass of wine with dinner and an ounce of scotch as a night cap?
There are all kinds of reasons, why sustained daily use of alcohol is not good for you. We have written about it before. This is just another reason to do a “vice check” and make sure that your habits are not hurting you more than you intend.