Saturday, December 12, 2009

Three glasses of wine a week 'increases risk of breast cancer returning by 30%'

It is not linked to risk of death but increases breast cancer? Must be a jolly nice sort of cancer! It's just epidemiolgical rubbish, of course -- picking out a correlation and assuming a direct causal link

Drinking just three glasses of wine a week increases by 30 per cent the risk of breast cancer returning, warn researchers. Women who have been successfully treated should limit their alcohol consumption to cut the chances of the disease coming back, they claim. Overweight and post-menopausal women are particularly susceptible to the effects of alcohol on recurrence, according to US researchers at the Kaiser Permanent Division of Research in Oakland, California.

Dr Marilyn Kwan, a staff scientist who led a new study, said 'Women previously diagnosed with breast cancer should consider limiting their consumption of alcohol to less than three drinks per week, especially women who are postmenopausal and overweight or obese' she said. The impact of drinking on the risk of developing breast cancer is well established. Scientific studies rank the scale of increased risk from four to seven per cent per drink, or unit of alcohol - the amount contained in a small glass of wine. But there have only been limited studies about alcohol's role in affecting the risk of recurrence.

The latest study looked at 1,897 breast cancer survivors diagnosed with early stage disease between 1997 and 2000. The researchers compared breast cancer recurrence in women previously diagnosed with breast cancer who drank, with a group of women previously diagnosed with the disease who did not drink. Women completed a questionnaire on wine, beer and liquor consumption over the past year, and medical records were checked. After eight years of follow-up there were 349 breast cancer recurrences and 332 deaths from cancer and other causes. Among drinkers - who comprised 50 per cent of those involved - wine was the most popular choice of alcohol among 90 per cent of women. Liquor was also chosen by 43 per cent of drinkers and beer by 36 per cent.

The overall increase in risk was 30 per cent for women drinking three or four drinks a week, with postmenopausal, overweight and obese women at greatest risk. The type of alcohol drunk did not affect the risk.

Alcohol consumption was not linked to risk of death, said Dr Kwan, presenting the data at the San Antonio Breast cancer Symposium in the US. She said 'These results can help women make more informed decisions about lifestyle choices after a diagnosis of breast cancer.'

Other research at the same conference shows breast cancer patients who are obese have poorer chances of beating the disease. Their treatment effect does not last as long and their risk of death increases, said Danish researchers at Odense University Hospital, who looked at medical records on 54,000 breast cancer patients.

Arlene Wilkie, director of research and policy at the Breast Cancer Campaign charity said 'This research adds to the growing evidence of a link between alcohol and breast cancer. To reduce breast cancer risk, as well as breast cancer recurrence we advise all women to limit their alcohol intake. 'Maintaining a healthy body weight throughout life, along with regular exercise will reduce the risk of many health problems including breast cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and other types of cancer.'


The CCF Challenge (Will food and science reporters take the bait?)

If you swallow the scary stories anti-food activists are constantly pushing to the media, you might be worrying about trace amounts of mercury in the fish you eat. But new research shows that levels of mercury in fish might be irrelevant after all. Since 2006 when we published “The Flip Side of Mercury,” we've been saying that selenium levels in seafood might actually be canceling out the negative effects of mercury, in an all-natural conspiracy to make fish the “brain food” your mom always said it was. (Selenium is a key antioxidant that helps guard against heart disease and boosts your immune system.) The News-Press in Fort Myers has the details:
Selenium -- an essential mineral found in all saltwater and many freshwater fish -- counteracts the toxic effects of mercury when it is present in equal or greater amounts than mercury, according to University of North Dakota environmental scientist Nicholas Ralston. If a fish has a higher selenium value than mercury, it would have a health benefit. If a fish were to have more mercury than selenium, it could be harmful….

Of 15 oceanic fish for which Ralston has tested, only mako shark had more mercury than selenium. Swordfish had only slightly more selenium than mercury, and all other fish, including thresher sharks and four tuna species -- the most commercially popular fish -- were considered strongly beneficial.

That’s big news. Even the much-maligned swordfish could be fully vindicated from mercury scaremongering. And tuna, the poster-fish for green scare campaigns, appears to have been unfairly singled out since it’s plentiful in selenium.

Here’s the catch, as the News-Press notes: Today’s fish consumption warnings are based only on the levels of mercury in fish. (Click here for more information about how supposed dangers from mercury in fish are often hyped by environmental alarmists and government regulators.)

After all, there has never been a single medically proven case of mercury toxicity related to commercial seafood in the United States (unless you take Jeremy Piven’s word for it). In fact, our wildly popular seafood calculator shows that an average-sized man could eat more than 10 pounds of canned light tuna every week before he would have any hypothetical new health risks from mercury.

We have to wonder: How many more newspapers will report on this important new research? The benefits of eating fish are well-documented, especially for pregnant mothers, but for too many years to count, activists have been telling people to throw the baby out with the bath water.

So we’re issuing a challenge to health and science writers and bloggers: Take a look at Dr. Ralston’s research. See if it passes the smell test. And allow yourself to challenge the conventional wisdom in print.

Can you imagine how the news about fish would change if everyone knew about the relationship between selenium and mercury? We sure can. Now it's up to you, reporters. We know you're out there.


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