Evidence links alcohol, cancer in women

"I thought it was good to drink like a glass a day or something," said Elsie Gilliam.

This is what many women believe, but a new study of over a million middle aged women in the United Kingdom calls this advice into question. Women who reported drinking one alcoholic beverage a day had a higher risk of liver, rectal, and breast cancer in the seven years after they were surveyed than those who said they drank less than two alcoholic beverages a week.

"I am surprised I've heard things that's it's good for you. I don't know what to think," said Carolyn Kolokotrones.

In the study, the cancer risk rose with each additional daily drink. Previous research has shown a link between excessive drinking and cancers such as head and neck disease, but Glendale Memorial Oncologist Kalust Ucar says if a woman only has one drink a day, it can't just be the alcohol increasing her risk.

"Sometimes people who drink a lot of alcohol they don't necessarily care of their health that much. They don't usually get mammograms or watch their weight or exercise. There's really a lot of factors that go into it," said Dr. Ucar.

Study authors believe moderate alcohol intake ramps up estrogen levels which is known to be associated with breast cancer, but Dr. Ucar says moderate drinking is such a small part of a woman's overall risk. He says getting regular mammograms, colonoscopies, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight play a much bigger part.

"We should look at life as a whole not just one aspect of our health. In my view having just one glass of wine is not such a substantial risk for the big picture of life," said Dr. Ucar.

In the study, women who drank wine exclusively or a mixture of alcoholic beverages had a similar increased risk. However as critics point out, researchers only know what women told them about their drinking habits. Some might have reported drinking less when they actually drank more.



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