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Women and Alcohol By Mrs Vera West
Regular readers will know that I am a temperance person, anti-alcohol, like my grandmother who was active in the Temperance League:
Big Liquor won the first round, but we are not giving up. Nevertheless the ill-effects of alcohol continue to be documented, especially the cancer risk for women. Here is a good article summarising this by a women who was otherwise health conscious, but still drank in moderation, and was afflicted with cancer:
“I quickly discovered that way back in 1988, the World Health Organization declared alcohol a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning that it’s been proved to cause cancer. There is no known safe dosage in humans, according to the WHO. Alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer, but it kills more women from breast cancer than from any other. The International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates that for every drink consumed daily, the risk of breast cancer goes up 7 percent. The research linking alcohol to breast cancer is deadly solid. There’s no controversy here. Alcohol, regardless of whether it’s in Everclear or a vintage Bordeaux, is carcinogenic.
More than 100 studies over several decades have reaffirmed the link with consistent results. The National Cancer Institute says alcohol raises breast cancer risk even at low levels. Epidemiologists first recognized the connection between cancer and alcohol consumption in the 1970s. Scientists have since found biological explanations for why alcohol is carcinogenic, particularly in breast tissue. When you take a drink, enzymes in your mouth convert even small amounts of alcohol into high levels of acetaldehyde, a carcinogen. People who consume more than three drinks a day are two to three times likelier to contract oral cavity cancer than those who don’t. Alcohol also damages the cells in the mouth, priming the pump for other carcinogens: Studies have found that drinking and smoking together pose a much higher risk of throat, mouth, and esophageal cancer than either does on its own.
Alcohol continues its trail of cellular damage as enzymes from the esophagus to the colon convert it into acetaldehyde. The liver serves as the body’s detox center, but alcohol is toxic to liver cells and can scar the organ tissue, leading over time to cirrhosis, which raises the risk of liver cancer. Researchers estimate that alcohol accounts for 15 percent of US breast cancer cases and deaths. As acetaldehyde courses through the body, it can bind to DNA, causing mutations that can lead to cancer, particularly in the colon. Alcohol is suspected of inflicting a double whammy on breast tissue because it also increases the level of estrogen in a woman’s body. High levels of estrogen prompt faster cell division in the breast, which can lead to mutations and ultimately tumors.
Researchers estimate that alcohol accounts for 15 percent of US breast cancer cases and deaths—about 35,000 and 6,600 a year, respectively. That’s about three times more than the number of breast cancer cases caused by a mutation of the BRCA genes, which prompted Angelina Jolie, who carries one of the abnormal genes, to have both her healthy breasts removed in 2013. The breast cancer risk from alcohol isn’t nearly as high as the lung cancer risk from smoking. But alcohol-related breast cancer kills more than twice as many American women as drunk drivers do. And alcohol is one of the few breast cancer risk factors women can control. Others, like starting menstrual periods before the age of 12 and entering menopause after 55, are baked in.”
The Temperance Movement was right; at least for women there should be no drinking of alcohol at all. I believe that the medical evidence also supports this same conclusion for men as well, or at best, only small quantities of alcohol, which defeats the purpose of drinking in the first place. So, follow my dear grandmother’s Victorian advice, and don’t drink alcohol.