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Are drinking guidelines adequate regarding the risk of cancer?
Date:7/19/2011

A group of French scientists (from the Unit of Research on Nutritional Epidemiology, French National Institute for Agricultural Research, Bobigny, France; the French Institute for Prevention and Health Education, St. Denis, France; and the French National Cancer Institute) have published a paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) on guidelines for drinking and the relation of alcohol to cancer. They conclude that:

  • Guidelines for sensible drinking are based on the short-term effects of consuming alcohol, such as social and psychological problems or admissions to hospital, and disregard the doseresponse relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer risk.
  • The current guidelines for sensible drinking for the general population are not adequate for the prevention of cancer.
  • Revised guidelines that are based on complete and up-to-date scientific evidence are needed.

It could be argued that The current guidelines for sensible drinking for the general population are not adequate for the prevention of cancer" -- has some merit, if one is discussing heavy drinking. With the exception of breast cancer (and possibly for colon cancer), an increase in cancer risk is associated almost exclusively with heavy drinking (especially alcoholism). This is the primary factor associated with upper aero-digestive cancers, liver cancer, and other "alcohol-related cancers." These are not common outcomes associated with moderate drinking. More importantly, the authors ignore the consistent data from developed countries around the world showing that moderate drinkers are at lower risk of all-cause mortality than non drinkers. Even taking into account an increase in risk for certain types of cancer from alcohol consumption, the authors do not acknowledge that total mortality is higher among abstainers (including lifetime abstainers) than among moderate drinkers.

Many diseases such as cancer affect old
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Contact: R Curtis Ellison
ellison@bu.edu
508-333-1256
Boston University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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