Be Simultaneously Informed And Confused: Google “Alcohol And Cancer”
September 8, 2016
The wine industry, and its consumers were ecstatic in 1991 when CBS Sixty Minutes reporter and wine aficionado Morley Safer presented, The French Paradox. The paradox: the French consumed far more animal fats than Americans but they suffered fewer premature cardiovascular deaths. Red wine seemed to solve the riddle, and the French drank far more of that than Americans.
After Safer’s report, many research studies claimed moderate wine consumption can be beneficial to our overall health. Indeed, the official U.S. government outlook on alcohol shifted from a sin to salubrious, right down to suggesting wine along with our daily diet.
In the past decade, the increase in American wine sales averaged 1 to 2 percent annually; for $38 billion in revenue, it paid to offer a positive health message.
Conversely, despite estimated $35 billion tobacco profits in this century, from 1965 to 2014 American cigarette-smokers fell from 42 to 17 percent of the population; the result of a strong negative health message.
In January 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services removed its recommendation of moderate alcohol consumption . This move was in part a response to the official World Health Organization outlook concerning beverage alcohol. The National Cancer Institute could not resist.
Today, we are told that alcohol, even moderate use of it, causes cancer.
Here are some headlines this past July.
1. Alcohol’s cancer risks outweigh any health benefits, study shows
This is the opening line of the story: “Drinking alcohol is a direct cause of at least seven forms of cancer.”
2. Alcohol Is Even Deadlier Than You Think, Scientist Reminds Us
The opening line of this story: “An opinion piece published in the scientific journal Addiction in July gathers evidence to argue that alcohol is a direct cause of cancer in several areas of the body.”
3. The 7 Types Of Cancer That Alcohol Might Actually ‘Cause’
Within the first line of this story was this: “.a new paper in the journal Addiction suggests that alcohol is not only linked to, but may actually cause, seven different types of cancer.”
Good headlines and good ledes, but are they accurate?
Here’s a headline from British writer Christopher Snowden:
Study ‘proves alcohol causes cancer’. The problem? There wasn’t a study.
Snowden went on to criticize the media asking in part: “How have we got to the stage where the opinion of a single academic from New Zealand, writing in the commentary section of a specialist journal, becomes front-page news.describing an op-ed as a ‘study’ and someone’s subjective view as ‘proof’?”
Another writer, Beth Mole, weighed in.
Her piece began with: “.a bunch of journalists confused an opinion piece for a study.
That “study” or “new paper” in the journal Addiction was actually an opinion piece by Jennie Connor, from the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, in Dunegin, New Zealand. Connor warned against concluding that a particular finding proves cause and effect between alcohol and cancer. She defined “risk” in many ways many times, but many reporters missed that part, too.
On the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism web site is this report: Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Cancer-a Meta-Analysis. As extensive and dry as the analysis is, these lines hit me in the face:
“To date, no experimental evidence indicates that alcohol by itself can cause cancer -that is, that alcohol can act as a complete carcinogen.several animal studies have indicated that alcohol can have a co-carcinogenic, or cancer-promoting, effect.”
In its conclusion “.this meta-analysis confirms that high levels of alcohol consumption (i.e., more than four drinks per day) result in a substantial risk of cancer development at several sites. Lower levels of consumption result in a moderately increased risk for various cancers.other studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption can have protective effects against certain types of heart disease.”
I doubt anyone can claim drinking alcohol is a direct cause of at least seven forms of cancer. Don’t believe me? Read the meta-analysis.
Meanwhile, here’s to a healthy heart!