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The Villages
Sunday, May 19, 2024

One drink per day linked to increased cancer risks

Dr. Gabe Mirkin
Dr. Gabe Mirkin

The authors reviewed 222 articles, following 92,000 light drinkers and 60,000 non-drinkers, and showed that taking up to one alcoholic drink a day is associated with increased risk for cancer of the mouth and throat, esophagus and breast (Annals of Oncology, Feb 2013; 24(2):301-308). In 2007, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that drinking alcohol is associated with cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and female breast.
Thirty-seven percent of North American adults take up to two drinks a day. Many have the mistaken belief that it is safe for women to take up to one drink per day and for men to take up to two drinks per day. An additional 28 percent of North Americans drink more than that. One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 2/3rds of a shot glass of alcohol.

Taking one to two drinks a day has been associated with reduced risk for heart attacks. However, drinking alcohol regularly is associated with high blood pressure, heart failure, sudden death and stroke.

What is the Link between Alcohol and Cancer?
We don’t know how alcohol might cause cancer. Alcohol is broken down only by your liver which converts it to acetaldehyde, a substance that can damage cells’ genetic material called DNA to stop apoptosis, which can cause cancer.

Why Do So Many People Think That Alcohol Is Healthful?
For many years the wine, beer and alcoholic beverage industries have promoted studies showing that alcohol is healthful. However, researchers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia reviewed 54 studies and found that only seven of those studies corrected their non-drinking population for people who had been told to stop drinking for health reasons (Addiction Research and Theory, April 2006).

When researchers perform an epidemiological study to see if alcohol prevents disease, they compare people who drink with those who do not drink. However, many people do not drink because their doctors have told them they have liver, heart or kidney disease, high blood pressure, alcoholism, stomach ulcers, or other major health problems. The Canadian researchers re-analyzed 47 studies that associated wine or other alcohol with a longer life and decreased risk for heart attacks. When the studies were corrected to remove the people who had been ordered to stop drinking for health reasons, they found no difference in death rate between moderate drinkers and those who do not drink at all. Always be skeptical of studies that say alcohol prolongs life.

Dr. Gabe Mirkin and his wife Diana are residents of The Villages.

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