Reality Check: Alcohol, Cancer

The glass is empty.

The glass is empty.

"The purpose of this study is not to stigmatize moderate drinking, and I apologize if this makes people feel bummed out.  But it is important for people to know that yes, alcohol is a carcinogen, and it does increase your risk. That's the bottom line." 

 -- Dr. Timothy Naimi of Boston University School of Medicine, CBS News

My inbox popped up another invite to an "Uncorked" fundraiser for cancer research.  Every week, throughout Chicago, weeknight drinking soirees rally for cancer support groups.  Events promote "varietal wine and beer tastings", in the name of fundraising to fight cancer.

This upsets me.  This perpetuates the mixed message we already have to sift through at the grocery store.  

Let's have a reality check.  According to a study released in the April 2013 American Journal of Public Health:

  • Alcohol is responsible for over 20,000 (about 3.5%) of U.S. cancer deaths every year
  • The most susceptible forms of cancer affected by alcohol consumption are: mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast
  • Breast cancer made up 15% of alcohol-related cancer deaths
  • The average drinker in this study had just 1.5 drinks a day or less, accounting for 30% of these cancer deaths

These are the facts.  This is a reality check.

There are alcohol-free ways to support cancer research and communities.  In the Chicago community, we have:

Recovery on Water (ROW) -- Opportunity for breast cancer survivors (and others) to get together and enjoy rowing. 

To my friends, especially cancer survivors and supporters, how do you tackle this juxtaposition -- balancing the message of health with the pull of fundraising and social events?  Please comment.