For a brief update on alcohol’s link to breast cancer, click here.
The proof keeps getting stronger and stronger: Alcohol increases your risk of getting cancer, especially certain common kinds. Among them–breast and colon cancer.
“The evidence that alcoholic drinks are a cause of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx, oesophagus, colorectum (men), and breast is convincing. They are probably a cause of liver cancer, and of colorectal cancer in women.”
That’s the conclusion published a few years back by an international panel of scientists who reviewed all the studies. Their recent updates on colorectal and breast cancer confirm the findings.*
“The evidence does not show any ‘safe limit’ of intake,” they say.
And it doesn’t seem to matter what type of alcohol you drink. Even red wine? Yes, even red wine, despite that it contains the compound resveratrol, which has been touted as anti-cancer. As with everything, you have to weigh the good and the bad.
So how does alcohol fuel cancer? Lots of theories abound. According to Dr. Jeanne Wallace, a PhD in nutrition who counsels people with cancer, alcohol is estrogenic. Plus, wine and beer contain sugars, which increase our production of insulin, which in turn has been linked to cancer growth. Alcohol may also “induce folate deficiency in the colon and rectum,” says the international group.
On the good side, however, increasing your folate—a B vitamin found in beans and dark greens–could help protect you, at least somewhat.
The anti-cancer bottom line: Don’t drink, but if you must every so often, indulge first and foremost in some healthy folate. Fiber, protein and fat will also slow your absorption of sugar. Kale chips and humus, anyone?
*The discussion of alcohol and cancer is on pages 157-171 of the original 2007 report, available at http://www.dietandcancerreport.org. That report’s recent update on breast cancer suggests that there may be an exception for breast cancer that is both estrogen and progesterone negative.