Name things that increase your risk of cancer. Cigarettes and tanning beds might quickly come to mind. But how about alcohol? A recent survey of 4,016 adults by the American Society of Clinical Oncology found that only 30 percent knew alcohol is a risk factor for cancer, reports the New York Times.
ASCO, which includes many leading cancer doctors, had yet to voice its own thoughts on the topic. That changed this month, with the Nov. 7 publication of a statement in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that begins by calling the link between the two “often underappreciated” and noting that “addressing high-risk alcohol use is one strategy to reduce the burden of cancer.” In the statement they cite outside research they’ve found to be sound, like an estimate that 5.8 percent of global cancer deaths in 2012 were attributable to alcohol, and evidence that drinking can increase the risk of mouth, throat, voice box, liver, breast, esophageal, and colorectal cancers.
So what’s the upshot? It’s not “Don’t drink,” lead statement author Dr. Noelle LoConte told the Times. “It’s different than tobacco where we say, ‘Never smoke. Don’t start.’ This is a little more subtle”—drink less, essentially.
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(Though the statement does contain the line, “People who do not currently drink alcohol should not start for any reason.”) So what’s Wine Spectator’s response? It tried to poke a hole or two, noting “the statement … dismisses possible health benefits of alcohol, including lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.” (This ad was most effective at getting people to cut their drinking.)