Alcohol and cancer risk linked, experts say

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cancer risk and alcohol Although consumption is well established, most of the research to date has focused on the harm of large amounts of alcohol, including the dangers of alcohol. Alcohol consumption increases over time again frequent binge drinking.

Its focus means that low levels of drinking are not harmful, but the World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a statement of lancet public health We refute that assumption and declare that there is no safe amount when it comes to alcohol.

In a statement, the WHO noted that the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen decades ago. This classification also includes asbestos, radiation, and tobacco. alcohol It causes at least seven types of cancer, including colon cancer, breast cancer, and head and neck cancer, the group added.

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This statement New Canadian guidelines It claims that zero drinking per week should be the goal, and drinking three or more drinks per week significantly increases the risk of cancer.

but, WHO admitted it cancer risk Although it increases with more alcohol consumption, the latest available data show that half of all alcohol-attributable cancers in European study participants were caused by mild to moderate consumption. In the EU, light to moderate consumption was associated with about 23,000 new cancer cases in 2017. WHO estimateIn 2016, alcohol consumption also contributed to 3 million deaths worldwide and accounted for about 5% of the global burden of illness and injury.

With these figures, WHO concluded that risk begins “with the first drop of alcoholic beverages”.

So, does that mean it’s time to empty the booze cabinet and go completely zero-proof? As with many health decisions, the answer seems to be:

What you need to know about cancer risk management and alcohol

According to some oncologists who were not involved in the statement, the point of WHO policy is not that everyone should practice abstinence forever, but that these findings should help This means that you should be prompted to investigate in more detail whether the alcohol consumption can affect the overall risk of cancer.

“This policy is kind of a starting point for risk, not only for the population but also for the individual,” said Lewis Potters, M.D., Ph.D., director of radiology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. cycling“We knew all along alcohol was associated with certain types of cancer, but the WHO did not say any level was unacceptable. This leaves no room for adjusting consumption based on risk level. ”

For example, smokers should completely reconsider their drinking because the combination of smoking and alcohol consumption significantly increases risk compared to either one of these alone. But when all other risk factors are low, occasional or light drinking is less of a problem, says Potters.

When it comes to general cancer risk assessment, there are some factors that cannot be modified, such as genetic susceptibility, says David Cohn, M.D., Ph.D., director of gynecologic oncology at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. . But there are some things you can manage. The main ways to manage cancer risk include tobacco use, excess weight, hit the sunand of course, alcohol consumption.

“Shouldn’t you be putting on two kilograms and sunbathing without sunscreen?” Cohn asks. cycling“There are trade-offs in everything we do, not just cancer risk, but our health whole. We are always making decisions based on what is potentially beneficial or harmful. ”

According to Eleonora Teplinsky, MD, director of breast medical oncology at Valley-Mount Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Care, one consideration when considering cancer risk levels and how much to abstain from alcohol is that alcohol It is to understand that it is alcohol regardless of its form. She is a clinical assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai, New Jersey. “The important point is that all types of alcohol increase risk because, for example, there is a common misconception that wine is safer than strong alcohol,” she says. cycling.

Another consideration, adds Potters. health behavior It may work here as well as how much you drink. Paying attention to how your lifestyle choices are related can help you make decisions about whether to drink happy hour beer.

“It’s like chess in three dimensions,” he says. “You have to see how much you exerciseFor example, what you eat, whether you are exposed to environmental pollutants, whether you have ever smoked, whether you have ongoing health problems, how much stress you have. You can never mitigate all risk factors, so it’s important to adjust what you can. ”

Finding Balance in Alcohol Consumption

While the WHO Position Statement can help facilitate risk discussions with physicians, there is one response that is less helpful. Director of the Providence St. John’s Health Center and the Gastrointestinal and Hepatobiliary Program at the St. John’s Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California.

“It is highly irresponsible for the WHO to classify alcohol as a Level 1 carcinogen,” he says. cycling. “There is no doubt that high amounts of alcohol greatly increase the risk of some types of cancer. health problemsBut it seems disturbing to say that there is never a safe amount for something that has been consumed for thousands of years. ”

If alcohol itself is toxic, as the report suggests, it would lead to far more cancers than are being diagnosed worldwide, he added.

This does not mean that the WHO data are flawed. It is always wise to assess how much you drink and whether you need to cut back. It’s just that there are other nuances to consider. It’s not as simple as thinking that sometimes a glass of wine automatically leads to cancer, says Bilchik.

“The message here is to learn about other risk factors, not just alcohol, and know your own cancer predisposition. It’s like a mathematical equation,” adds Cohn. “Everything you do should be placed in the context of your potential longevity and healthy longevity.”

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Elizabeth Millard is a freelance writer focusing on health, wellness, fitness and food.

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