Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Alcohol, Breast Cancer, Million Women Study, UK

We all know that alcohol use is associated with a variety of health risks. We are also told however that low use of alcohol(one to two drinks per day) gives some cardiac protection and can lower the risk of heart disease. Recent findings from the Million Women Study in the United Kingdom show that there are other adverse effects that we need to be aware of.

1.3 million women, average age 55, have been followed for the past seven years and it is clear that alcohol use, even mild can increase the risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer. The study found that the risk exists even with one drink per day and increases with increasing use. It is estimated that 1 drink per day resulted in an increase of 15 cancers per 1000 women and that two drinks per day caused 30 more new cancer cases per 1000 women. This might not seem like a lot but translates into approximately 13% of all new cancer cases in women may be directly attributable to alcohol. In addition to breast cancer there was an increase in rectal and liver cancers and in women who smoked esophageal and oral cancers as well.

This is a reminder to me that sweeping recommendations such as drink a little to reduce heart disease have to be balanced by other factors and that we need to look at overall health in evaluating any forms of prevention and treatment.

Thought for the day

"Fools despise wisdom and instruction".

The book of Proverbs

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Seymour,
    I read this same study and had much of the same thoughts as you did. It seems to me that in our society today we all want a quick blanket like fix. Unfortunately in our quest to get that we may overlook the negative aspects of those fixes. Such as an increased risk for breast cancer. I think we could all benefit from knowing more about what we are doing to "take care" of ourselves before doing it. Thanks for bringing this up!

    Dan Cook LMSW
    Family Program Counselor

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