Alcohol may increase cancer risk for some

It sure seems that every time we see a study that gives us some good health news, another one comes along which paints an even more dire picture. As does this one, at least if you’re of Asian descent.

It has long been suspected that alcohol consumption can increase the risk of some types of cancer. This study purports to now have solid proof. (No pun intended.)

First evidence from humans on how alcohol may boost risk of cancer

Silvia Balbo, Ph.D., who led the study, explained that the human body breaks down, or metabolizes, the alcohol in beer, wine and hard liquor. One of the substances formed in that breakdown is acetaldehyde, a substance with a chemical backbone that resembles formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. Scientists also have known from laboratory experiments that acetaldehyde can cause DNA damage, trigger chromosomal abnormalities in cell cultures and act as an animal carcinogen.

“We now have the first evidence from living human volunteers that acetaldehyde formed after alcohol consumption damages DNA dramatically,” Balbo said. She is a research associate in the laboratory of Stephen Hecht, Ph.D., a noted authority on cancer prevention at the University of Minnesota. “Acetaldehyde attaches to DNA in humans ― to the genetic material that makes up genes – in a way that results in the formation of a ‘DNA adduct.’ It’s acetaldehyde that latches onto DNA and interferes with DNA activity in a way linked to an increased risk of cancer.”

It turns out that about 30% of Asians have a variant of the alcohol dehydrogenase gene so are unable to metabolize alcohol into acetate, and that ultimately translates into an increased risk of esophogeal cancer. Native Americans and native Alaskans have the same variant. That’s over one-and-a-half billion people.

Of course the study used vodka for their tests, and there was no mention in anything I read if there might be a difference between spirits and wine or beer.

As always: Everything in moderation.

Moderate drinkers less likely to contract A.L.S.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is thankfully rather rare. According to a Dutch study the risk is reduced by a large percentage amongst drinkers versus non-drinkers. Smokers, conversely, had a much higher risk.

From the Abstract:

These findings indicate that current smoking is associated with an increased risk of ALS, as well as a worse prognosis, and alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of ALS, further corroborating the role of lifestyle factors in the pathogenesis of ALS. The importance of population-based incident patient cohorts in identifying risk factors is highlighted by this study.

(via PubMed (via Brookston Beer Bulletin))

Moderate consumption may lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis

Frankly, I want to know who funds these things.

Snark aside, this is more good news for people who enjoy their alcoholic beverages moderately. In this case, moderate means more than three drinks per week. (They really didn’t give an upper bound.) Oh, and the study was on Swedish women.

After taking into account other factors like age, diet and smoking, the researchers found that people who reported drinking more than three alcoholic beverages a week — where a single beverage is defined as 500 milliliters of beer, 150 milliliters of wine or 50 milliliters of liquor — had a 52 percent lower rheumatoid arthritis risk, compared with people who never drank.

The working theory is that since rheumatoid arthritis is an anti-immune disease, that the alcohol is probably mildly suppressing the body’s immune function.

A study in Oregon found similar results with moderate drinking protecting against osteoporosis.

Of course, they take pains to remind us that heavy drinking offers up plenty of deleterious effects of its own.

It’s not a good reason to start drinking, but it’s still good news.

(via Choose Responsibility Blog (via Huffington Post))

Beer can fight obesity?

Well, no, not really. Studies show there’s a molecule found in beer (and milk), nicotinamide riboside, or NR, that might help fight obesity, improve muscle strength, and maybe even lengthen your lifespan.

The trouble is that it’s found in such small amounts in beer that you’d have to drink way more than is healthy to get an amount that might do anything. Not to mention all of the chips, pork rinds and chili dogs you’re having along with your beer.

Brookston Beer Bulletin has a lot more information.

Regular alcohol consumption linked to increased cancer risk

Here we go again. Now it appears that if you’re a regular to heavy drinker, you have more chance of developing cancer. And not just a single type, either. Alcohol has been linked to cancer of the breast, liver, colon, pancreas, mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, and (recently) lungs.

For some of these cancers, such as lung, larynx and colorectal, the cancer risk only sets in when people drink heavily—three or four drinks a day on a regular basis. But just one drink a day raises the risk for cancers of the mouth and esophagus, several studies show.

And the risk of breast cancer starts to rise with as few as three drinks a week, according to the U.K.’s Million Women Study, one of more than 100 studies linking alcohol consumption and breast cancer.

Wall Street Journal: Raising the Chance of Some Cancers With Two Drinks a Day (‘ware the paywall!)

Will this make me drink less beer? Probably not. Just like when there was a study that showed that moderate consumption of alcohol reduced the risk of heart disease, I didn’t start drinking more.

In all things: moderation.