Sunday, September 30, 2007

Don't worry, I don't drink much

If you missed this news this week, you probably also haven't heard that OJ's back in the justice system or that Iran's president didn't quite get to "make it" in New York.

Basically, a new study apparently shows that women who drink alcohol regularly--even as little as a drink a day, and regardless of what kind of alcohol it is--face an average increase in risk of breast cancer of 30%. Now, as a Wired blogger helpfully points out,
Thirty percent is a big deal: Reuters points out that women have, on average, a 1 in 8 lifetime chance of developing breast cancer, so a 30 percent change ups that chance to 1 in 6.
(By the way, don't miss the photo accompanying that article. Someone has quite the gift for appropriate illustration.) Anyhoo, while the risk is substantial, I've been scouring the various articles for more detail on methodology, and I can't find it. So my personal jury is still out on this one (and thank goodness; I needed some quiet inside my head).

The articles that get into a possible mechanism for the finding generally say that alcohol is hypothesized to disrupt hormones, and this leads to the kind of estrogen imbalance that causes breast cancer. Well, my tumor was not fed by estrogen (or progesterone). But none of the articles mention whether the risk was equivalent across tumor types, although the only proposed mechanism is hormonal. That is frustrating.

The study on which my nutrition program is based, for example, showed no major benefit for women who DID have ER-positive tumors, but a big benefit for ER-negatives like me. It's clear from virtually all breast cancer studies that the tumor type is one of the biggest "it depends" factors out there. So it would really be nice if the press had covered this aspect. Even the medical press has not. We'll see what happens when the study gets published; hopefully we'll find out then.

In other news, I am very happy to see this next article. Basically, it tells me that I can forget about needing to buy sexy lingerie or plan romantic weekends: I got breast cancer, and that's a marriage boost in itself. Yay! (Noah's thrilled too!)

And finally, looks like those newsmakers in Barcelona aren't done yet (or, those who weren't invited decided to prove they still matter, too). Anyway, today's LA Times will report that childhood exposure to DDT has been shown to increase later risk of breast cancer by a whopping 400% (though the sample size is admittedly small). Since DDT was outlawed before I was born, it may not have affected me. But it is yet another reminder of how many scary chemicals we swim around in, and how much predestination is involved in whether each of us gets hit by something terrible.


Anonymous said...

You should have entitled this: "Don't worry, I don't drink much (if you don't count all the iced tea pitchers I have Noah incessantly refill for me)"

Gordon said...

Nah. I found this professor who positively recommends a glass of red wine a day. It is the resveratrol from the red grapoe skins that has an anti cancer effect, though he agrees all other alcohol is bad.

Professor Richard Beliveau, wrote "Foods that fight Cancer". A podcast is here: