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Alcohol and Cancer and Heart Risks

Posted 2/23/2013

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  This is a very nuanced and complicated topic, and I can't pretend to know or explain the details. If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I have written often about the association of alcohol (even moderate use) with breast cancer. There have been a number of studies that suggest that women who drink even one alcoholic beverage a day increase their risk of developing breast cancer. There have neem a few studies that suggest that the same rate of alcohol consumption may increase the risk of recurrence of breast cancer. Then, there were a couple of studies recently that suggested that moderate alcohol intake might decrease the risk of recurrence for some women.


  We do know that moderate alcohol use reduces the risk of cardiac disease. Heart disease remains the biggest killer of American women, but, if you are reading this blog, you obviously are more worried about breast cancer. Whenever I write about this, I feel the need to say that I do drink a glass of wine or a cocktail almost every night. Sometimes, on the weekends, I have both. This is a concious choice, and I am definitely not recommending that, if you don't drink, you start following my example. It is an example, however, of my ongoing attempts to balance the quality of my life with my healthy habits, and I really enjoy a glass of good red wine with dinner. I do go to the gym every day, keep my weight stable, eat lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, avoid red meat, etc. etc. All of which is to say: you make your own choices and decisions.

  This is a very balanced essay from the Harvard Health Letter:

Alcohol: a heart disease cancer balancing act

Posted By Howard LeWine, M.D. On February 15, 2013

Posted By Howard LeWine, M.D. On February 15, 2013

The message that drinking a little alcohol is good for the heart has

gotten plenty of attention. A new study linking alcohol with increased

risk of dying from various cancers may temper that message a bit.

About 4% of cancer deaths worldwide are related to alcohol use. No

one has done a major study of this issue in the United States for more

than 30 years. During that time, we’ve learned a lot about alcohol and

cancer, and powerful statistical methods have been developed for

estimating risk.

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute and other institutions

delved into many studies and information databases. They calculated

that alcohol causes 3.5% of U.S. cancer deaths, or about 20,000


deaths each year. The study was published online

yesterday in the American Journal of Public Health.

The most common alcoholrelated

cancers were mouth, throat, and

esophageal cancer in men, and breast cancer in women.


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