Preventive Medicine: Alcohol and cancer risk – New Haven Register

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Dr. David Katz

Dr. David Katz

Preventive Medicine: Alcohol and cancer risk

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Perhaps no subject in nutrition is a source of more concentrated ambiguity than alcohol consumption and health. Consider the irony and intrinsic contradictions of the widespread practice, across many cultures and languages, and, candidly, my own family table — of toasting to one another’s health with a product that the American Society of Clinical Oncology just told us constitutes a significant cancer risk.

The position statement just released, rightly receiving high-profile media attention, does not represent new research. Rather, the Cancer Prevention Committee of ASCO apparently judged that the aggregated evidence available was sufficient to make a statement, and that a reality check on the topic was timely.

Their basic conclusion is that even moderate and light alcohol intake contribute meaningfully to cancer risk. Moderate alcohol intake is defined as up to one drink (1.5oz of distilled spirits; 5oz of wine; or 12oz of beer) daily for women, up to two for men. The difference is based in science, not sexism, of course; even when body size is comparable, men have higher levels of the key, metabolizing enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, than women. Less than that threshold is light drinking; more is heavy. Achieving that “average” by having six or seven drinks on both Friday and Saturday night is binge drinking.

The ASCO report tells us that roughly 3.5

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