Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Cancer docs tie booze directly to higher risks

Oncologist group calls attention to links between alcohol and seven different cancers

Risks of drinking alcohol are being emphasized for the first time by an organization that represents many of the nation's top cancer doctors.

According to a recent story by Ronnie Caryn Rabin in The New York Times, the American Society of Clinical Oncology "cites evidence that even light drinking can slightly raise a woman's risk of breast cancer and increase a common type of esophageal cancer."

Heavy drinkers, moreover, "face much higher risks of mouth and throat cancer, cancer of the voice box, liver cancer and, to a lesser extent, colorectal cancers," Rabin's story indicates.

The society's statement — the first in which ASCO has taken a stand — was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Risks of alcohol as a possible cancer cause have previously been cited by other medical groups, however.

Dr. Noelle LoConte
Rabin's piece quotes Dr. Noelle LoConte, lead author of the statement and an associate prof at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as saying, "If you want to reduce your cancer risk, drink less. And if you don't drink, don't start…It's different than tobacco where we say, 'Never smoke. Don't start.' This is a little more subtle."

The New York Times' story notes that several studies have shown overall drinking — including heavy and problem imbibing — to be on the rise in the United States, affecting "all segments of society, including women, older adults, racial and ethnic minorities and the poor."

As a way of ameliorating the situation, ASCO has called "for new public health initiatives to curb alcohol use, from taxes to restrictions on ads targeting minors."

The oncology group, according to the Times piece, "concluded that 5.5 percent of all new cancers and 5.8 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide could be attributed to alcohol.

ASCO also stated a report by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund that contended "for women, just one alcoholic drink a day can increase breast cancer risk."

The report, Rabin's story says, "analyzed 119 studies, including data on 12 million women and over a quarter of a million breast cancer cases," finding there was strong evidence "that alcohol consumption increases the risk of both pre- and postmenopausal cancer, and that drinking a small glass of wine or beer every day — about 10 grams of alcohol — increases premenopausal breast cancer risk by 5 percent and postmenopausal risk by 9 percent."

Dr. Clifford A. Hudis, chief exec at ASCO, states unequivocally, "The more you drink, the higher the risk. It's a pretty linear dose-response."

The risk for heavy drinkers, who are defined as having eight or more drinks weekly for women, 15 or more for men, "are multiples higher," according to the Times.

More information on various causes of cancer, and the risk factors involved, can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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