If even light drinking can cause cancer, why don’t doctors warn their patients about it?
As I discuss in my video Can alcohol cause cancer?, whomeland known on “the possible link between alcohol consumption and excess cancer mortality” for more than a hundred years. Although there is “accumulate Evidence that alcohol consumption is associated with … pancreatic and prostate cancer and melanoma” we’re pretty sure this “increases the risk of oral cancer [mouth] and throat [throat], esophagus, colorectum, liver, larynx [voice box] and female breast.” Current estimates point to alcohol caused about 5.8 percent of all cancer deaths in these organs worldwide.
How is it divided between men and women? As you can see at 0:44 in my Video, alcohol caused mainly causes head, neck and gastrointestinal cancers in men, while it mainly causes breast cancer in women. In fact, alcohol appears to cause more than 100,000 cases of breast cancer each year. But is that only the case for heavy drinkers? No. “All levels of evidence showed a risk relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of breast cancer, even at low levels of consumption.”
However, a healthy diet can help modulate this risk. Although alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer, “a high-fiber diet has the opposite effect,” so eating more whole plant-based foods may “may reduce the side effects associated with alcohol consumption.” Also, “alcohol has been shown to increase sex hormone levels,” like estrogen, which can increase breast cancer risk, but the opposite effect is seen with consumption of high-fiber foods. “Fiber can bind estrogen in the colon, increasing the fecal excretion of estrogens” — that is, helping flush them out of the body. Still there does not to appear being any level of alcohol consumption that is completely safe from a cancer standpoint.
That’s why we see Comments in the medical literature suggesting that “consumption of alcohol, an addictive carcinogen, cannot be considered a healthy lifestyle!” [alcohol] should His clear: It is toxic, carcinogenic, teratogenic [birth defect–causing], and potentially addictive. By arguing differently, scientists can Give the Alcohol Lobby and Advertisers the Power to Manipulate Scientific Evidence to Generate Profits’ about public health.
You do this through deny and distorting the evidence while attempting to divert public attention. The alcohol industry, Big Booze, “appears to be involved in the widespread misrepresentation of evidence about alcohol-related cancer risk,” activities that “have parallels with those of the tobacco industry,” Big Tobacco. These industries are somehow able to maintain an illusion of righteousness. “Alcohol and tobacco companies (like their junk food counterparts) are increasing search to present themselves… as objective providers of health information about their products and appropriate sources of educational resources for both adults and children… health information and messages should come from health authorities, not from the most successful drug traffickers of the 21st century.”
“Alcohol Industry benefit strongly deviate from this division, sometimes even embracing the respectable cause of cancer prevention to promote their cancer-causing product. Case in point: Mike’s Hard Pink Lemonade. “Join the Fight” and “Drink Pink” are emblazoned on the six pack along with the pink breast cancer ribbon symbol. More like “Drink pink carcinogens!” Mike’s Hard Lemonade (Mark Anthony Group) associated the creation of his Limited Edition Hard Pink Lemonade with the death of one of his employees from breast cancer.” While “it is ironic contributeIt risks in the name of prevention.” Reminds me of KFC’s Buckets for the Cure campaign. If you don’t remember, look it up yourself at 3:21 in my Video.
Cancer risk is one of those “things the alcohol industry doesn’t want tell you”, but why doesn’t your doctor tell you? there is relatively little public awareness of the compound and the medical community remains largely silent. The medical profession in general may be getting hotter when it comes to corporate conflicts of interest, but “why are we ignoring the alcohol industry?”
“Why is alcohol cancer’s best-kept secret?” Perhaps it’s because the doctors themselves are drinkers and “want to deny that alcohol causes cancer.”
Not only do most doctors drink, but a significant proportion do admits drinking while on call and meeting other doctors “whom they suspect may be impaired by alcohol while on call”. Although most physicians felt obliged to “tell their patients that they were consuming alcohol while on call, only 12% said they did so when consuming alcohol while on call”.
The industry “has identified the alcohol causes cancer message as a significant threat. These powerful entities have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of relative ignorance, insecurity, and denial among the general population and their trusted health advisors. With that in mind, it is time for health professionals to put aside any biases that might arise from their own alcohol consumption — good or bad — and be unreserved in communicating to their patients and the communities they serve that alcohol causes cancer.”
Cancer is only our second highest killer. The top killer is heart disease, so what about the French paradox? Doesn’t moderate drinking protect against cardiovascular disease? In this case, isn’t some alcohol beneficial overall? It is precisely these types of questions that I want to address in this four-part video series, which also contains.
THE CENTRAL THESIS
- Alcohol consumption has been associated with excess cancer mortality for more than a century and, even with low alcohol consumption, is the main cause of head, neck and gastrointestinal cancer in men and breast cancer in women.
- Breast cancer risk is increased by alcohol consumption, which also raises levels of sex hormones like estrogen, but a high-fiber diet has the opposite effect, so a greater intake of whole plant-based foods “may lessen the side effects associated with alcohol consumption.”
- In the medical literature, commentaries denounce alcohol as “toxic, carcinogenic, teratogenic [birth defect–causing], and potentially addictive,” while the alcohol industry has been accused of engaging in “extensive misrepresentations of evidence about alcohol-related cancer risk” and engaging in activities that “show parallels with those of the tobacco industry.”
- Big Booze has even embraced cancer prevention concerns in its marketing – e.g. Mike’s Hard Pink Lemonade with “Join the Fight” and “Drink Pink” emblazoned on the six pack along with the pink breast cancer ribbon symbol.
- The medical community has been relatively quiet about the link between alcohol use and increased risk of cancer, perhaps in part because most physicians drink themselves and a significant proportion admit to drinking while on call.
I used to focus specifically on breast cancer in my videos Breast Cancer and Alcohol: How Much is Safe? and Breast cancer risk: red wine vs. white wine.
Additional videos detailing the links between alcohol and cancer are included Prevent skin cancer from within and The best advice on diet and cancer.
Michael Greger, MD
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