Alcohol a contributor to cancer, say doctors

Published On November 15, 2013 | By Karina Nowysz | Sci/Tech
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Charlotte Hillyard-Baker

The Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition will be hosting a conference called Cancer & Alcohol: Myths,

Evidence, Action & Precautionary Policies Friday at Metro Hall which looks into the links between alcohol and cancer.

“Alcohol is an important public health issue,” said Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health for Toronto in a release. “The evidence for the link between alcohol and health threats like cancer is stronger than ever, and more needs to be done to prevent alcohol-related harms.”

This conference comes after International Agency for Research on Cancer said that alcohol consumption could be a contributing cause to multiple types of cancer in the body.

Speakers at the conference will include representatives from organizations such as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Public Health Ontario, Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Fauzia Hemani, Senior Coordinator in Prevention at the Canadian Cancer Society, confirmed that alcohol does contribute to cancer.

“If you wanted to know what kind of cancer it can have its impact on, it impacts quite a few cancers; breast can be one, rectal, esophagus, larynx, oral cancers,” she said.

“These are all impacted by alcohol. Especially colon, they say if you had about 3.5 drinks a day, it could really increase your chances of developing colon cancer. For breast cancer, it can increase your chances by 1.5 (drinks a day).”

“From doctors and scientists to policy makers and the media, the more we can make people aware of the risks, the easier it will be for people to make healthy choices when it comes to alcohol use,” said Dr. Norman Giesbrecht, CAMH Scientist in a release.

An issue that has become associated with drinking is social smoking, a practice which can lead to even further increases in risk of cancer.

“We also say that tobacco and alcohol together are far worse than either on their own,” she said.

Hemani said people don’t have to stop drinking completely but should limit how much they consume.

“If people do choose to drink, we have some recommendations to reduce their risk of cancer,” she said. “The first one is for women; we recommend less than one drink, and for men we recommend less than two drinks a day.”

Hemani gave advice to people on how to control their consumption. She mentioned that the alcoholic percentage of the drink alters how much you should have.

“There are standard sizes that we’re basing the one drink or the two drinks on. For instance if you have beer, which is usually about five percent alcohol, we say a 12 ounce bottle is one serving size. For a glass of wine, which is about 12-14, a fat five-ounce glass of wine is considered one glass. If we say a shot of spirits, about 40 percent concentration, we’d say about 1.5 ounce is one drink,” said Hemani.

“The reason why I am stating these is glass sizes can vary, but serving sizes are what people should really keep in mind.”

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