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According to this CBC article, a recent study of 1.3 million women concluded that as much as 13% of cancers in British women may be accounted for by alcohol consumption.The study, which followed the women (most of whom were light to moderate drinkers and 25% of whom were teetotallers) for an average of 7 years, was published in Tuesday’s issue of Great Britain’s Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“These findings suggest that even low levels of drinking increase a woman’s risk of developing cancer of the breast, liver and rectum — and in smokers, cancers of the mouth and throat,” Naomi Allen of the University of Oxford, who led the study, said in a statement.

While this is just one study, the number of related studies supporting this view is growing. In my mind, it underlines the importance of taking the pro-alcohol medical conclusions with a grain of salt.

People want to drink, and they justify their alcohol intake by telling themselves that it’s good for the heart. But in fact, even if this is true, two other things are also true:

  1. Any one of the following: Quitting smoking, exercising or improving diet will do more for your heart, and will help your other bodily systems, than the level of alcohol consumption that has been shown (in some studies) to improve heart health; and
  2. Even moderate alcohol consumption damages other bodily systems, notably the brain and liver.

In fact, according to the article, it is alcohol’s effect on the liver (even in low to moderate drinkers) that is responsible for the additional cancer risk.

In a related statement, Michael Lauer and Paul Sorlie of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the United States said, “There is no level of alcohol consumption that can be considered safe,” an unpopular opinion, according to Dr. Kathy Pritchard, an oncologist and head of clinical trials and epidemiology at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre.

The article also noted that both men and women who drink have higher estrogen levels in their bodies. Gross.

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