Alcohol and Cancer:
You’ve heard that red wine reduces risk for heart disease. And you’ve probably also heard that it increases risk for breast cancer. If you’re like me, you have a history of heart disease AND breast cancer in your family, so what do we do?
And what about other types of alcohol? How do they affect cancer risk?
Nutrients in Red Wine:
First you have to understand what it is in red wine that is supposed to be so good for us. Most studies have looked at one of two phytochemicals in red wine: resveretrol and procyanidin. Resveratrol is a polyphenol and procyanidin is an antioxidant. They are both thought to provide cardiovascular benefits.
Second, it is important to know that in studies showing benefits of resveratrol, mice were having the equivalent of hundreds of glasses of wine daily. I know what you’re thinking and no, the mice did not have to drink that much wine. They were given powdered resveratrol!
When it comes down to it, there is still not enough evidence to know that the wine itself is beneficial. There are many other foods that contain these phytochemicals including:
- dark chocolate
Dangers of Alcohol:
If there’s one thing we do know for sure, it’s that drinking alcohol increases risk for mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and breast cancer. It is also thought to increase risk of colorectal cancer and liver cancer.
Also of interest is the fact that drinking alcohol is especially harmful when combined with smoking. So even if you only smoke when you drink, you might want to think twice.
How Much is Too Much?
Ok. We know that some alcohol may be beneficial but that too much is harmful. So where do we draw the line? Just as with many things, you are going to have to evaluate for yourself what risk you are comfortable with. I’m here to give you the facts!
For cancer prevention, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends not drinking alcohol at all. They also recommend, if consumed at all, to keep it to 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for
men. By the way, those cannot be saved up for the weekend or an end of the month binge!
My general rule is no more than 1 drink in any given day. I also typically don’t have more than 2 drinks per week. There are going to be times of splurging just like with any food, but that is probably only 2 times per year.
Drink up if you must, but not too much and certainly don’t light up!