Alcohol and Cancer Risk
Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
SEPTEMBER 13, 2017
In this topsy-turvy world of fake news, how do we know what to believe? I suspect that most of us are instinctively skeptical about reports from a business that suggest their product has amazing health benefits. What about studies that turn out to have been financially sponsored by a whole industry? This article from EurekAlert discusses the alcohol industry's apparent attempts to mislead us about study results.
As far as I know, no one has proven that alcohol consumption causes cancer. There are plenty of studies that support the association between heavy drinking, often paired with tobacco use, and head and neck cancers. There have been more recent studies that suggest an association between even mild/moderate alcohol intake and breast cancer risk.
A team from the UK and Sweden examined the information on websites of almost 30 alcohol-related organizations and found that they misrepresented the cancer risk for, mostly, breast and colorectal cancers. I suspect that the research is complicated, but it does seem fair to wonder about the position taken by groups that directly stand to make or lose money depending on sales.
Here is a quote and a link to read more:
Alcohol industry misleading the public about alcohol-related cancer risk
According to the study, the researchers say policymakers and public health bodies should reconsider their relationships to these alcohol industry bodies, as the industry is involved in developing alcohol policy in many countries, and disseminates health information to the public.
Alcohol consumption is a well-established risk factor for a range of cancers, including oral cavity, liver, breast and colorectal cancers, and accounts for about 4% of new cancer cases annually in the UK1. There is limited evidence that alcohol consumption protects against some cancers, such as renal and ovary cancers, but in 2016 the UK's Committee on Carcinogenicity concluded that the evidence is inconsistent, and the increased risk of other cancers as a result of drinking alcohol far outweighs any possible decreased risk².