One of the only guarantees in this world is that eventually, somebody is going to find out that everything you love causes cancer.
A new epidemiological study out of New Zealand reports that the risk of The Big C due to alcohol consumption extends beyond your divorced uncle’s liver cancer and actually is directly linked to six other types of disease, including breast, colon, pancreatic, rectal, throat, and colon cancer.
Naturally, as I have consumed a lifetime of alcohol over the last four years and remain cancer-free (Franzia is the nectar of immortality, my friends), I was skeptical of this study. Cancer is a hairy beast, and it’s really difficult to come up with a causal link between the development of the disease and exposure to something.
The use of causal language in scientiﬁc and public discussions is patchy, with titles of papers and newspaper headlines often choosing to describe a causal association as a ‘link’ between alcohol and cancer. Incomplete understanding of biological mechanisms may be raised as an objection to calling alcohol a cause of cancer, and knowledge that there are other causes of the same cancers also seems to challenge acceptance of alcohol as a cause. An opinion piece disputing the evidence [in this study] was entitled: ‘To say moderate alcohol use causes cancer is wrong’
My thoughts exactly. You need really strong evidence to say something “causes” cancer. Looks like this is going to blow over just like…
Put very brieﬂy, existing epidemiological evidence supports a causal association of alcohol consumption with cancers at seven sites: oropharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon,rectum and female breast. For all these there is a dose–response relationship, where the increase in cancer risk with increased average consumption is monotonic, either linear or exponential, without evidence of threshold of effect.
Because that was more science than it should be legal to make you read during the summer, and I had to crack open a new box just to get through the rest, let me summarize what the click-bait sites won’t tell you:
*This was a review of many other studies so the data is scientifically unlikely to be biased or limited and the incidence rate is solid.
*There is no beverage distinction. The effects were based on the amount of alcohol, not the type. So if you drank 30 beers you’d be the same as killing a low-proof fifth.
*Women are much more affected by this than men, and at lower levels (scientific proof that dudes hold their booze better than the ladies). Even moderate or light drinking in women increases the risk of breast cancer significantly.
*Like smoking, the risk factors go away if you stop drinking. Likewise, if you smoke AND drink, you get double-penetrated and your risk for smoking-related cancer quadruples.
*Finally, alcohol itself is not a carcinogen. Instead, it’s acetaldehyde — the asshole molecule that causes hangovers, which I’ve tackled before.
So what should you do about this new information? Ultimately that’s up to you. Fraternity men know chewing causes mouth cancer and going home with Darla causes crabs, but they still do it. It’s your choice how you want to live your life.
Guess I’m going to go pick out my chemo-bandanna..
[via Wiley Online Library]