Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Drinking and Cancer in Women

*%#@%&*!!!! In case you hadn't heard, a new study shows that drinking in women , even moderate drinking, causes cancer. The highlights of the study are as follows. It was a big study (1.3 million women over 7 years), so the results are probably accurate. One drawback to the study is that it didn't distinguish between women who drank one drink a day for seven day, and women who drank seven drinks in a row once a week. Researchers estimate that 5% of all cancers diagnosed in women is due to low to moderate alcohol consumption. Drinking accounts for 11% of the breast cancer. Two drinks per day increases your risk for breast cancer by 32%. Three of more drinks per day increases your risk by 51%. Also, if you drink and smoke, your risk of oral,throat, and esophageal cancer is increased more then in wome who just smoke.
Michael S. Lauer, MD and Paul Sorlie, PhD who conducted an accompanying study state:

"Even if there are modest beneficial cardiovascular effects, we still don't have a clear picture of the overall risks and benefits of low-to-moderate alcohol consumption," he says. And because heart disease kills mostly elderly women, and because more middle-aged women die from cancer, the findings seem to suggest that the risks of drinking outweigh the benefits in this age group, he says.

"It might be reasonable to suspect that many women in the lay public who are asking physicians about any possible safe effects of alcohol are middle-aged: for this large group, the only reasonable recommendation we can make is that there is no clear evidence that alcohol has medical benefits," Lauer and Sorlie wrote.

Found in previous studies, women have less of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol. This means drink for drink, women suffer more liver damage and get drunk faster.

On the flip side, the 120,000 strong nurses study (the theory is that nurses report accurately in health studies) showed that women who drink one drink a day live longer. One drink a day (no, you can't save them up for the weekend) is thought to protect you from heart disease, which kills more women (although usually older women) then cancer. Alcohol probably raises HDL (good cholesterol) levels, and reduces inflammation and blood clots. The nurses study showed that moderate drinking cuts your risk of heart disease in half.
It also protects against strokes and osteoporosis.

See the article on Web Md, US News and SF Gate.

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