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Guest Blog: On Alcohol and Breast Cancer, Guilt, Correlations, Fun, Moderation, Doctors' Habits, Advice and Herbal Tea
Elaine Schattner | November 11, 2011
Few BC news items irk some women I' know more than those linking alcohol con'sumption to the Disease.' Joy-draining' results like those' reported this week serve up a' double-''whammy of guilt: first ' that you might have developed cancer because you drank a' bit, or a' lot, or however much defines more than you should have imbibed; and second ' now that you've had BC, the results dictate, or suggest at least, it's best not to drink alcohol.
The problem is this: If you've had BC and might enjoy a' glass of wine, or a' mar'garita or two at a' party, or a' glass of whiskey, straight, at a' bar, or after work with col'leagues, or when you're alone with your cat, for example, you might end up feeling really bad about it ' worse than if you had only to worry about the usual stuff like liver disease and brain damage, or if you could simply expe'rience pleasure like others, as they choose.
The newly-''published cor'rel'ative data, in the Nov 2' issue of' JAMA, are clear. ' The findings, an off'shoot of the Nurses' Health Study, involve over 105,000 women mon'i'tored from 1980 until 2008. ' The bottom line is that even low levels of alcohol con'sumption, the equiv'alent to 3'6 drinks per week, are asso'ciated with a' sta'tis'ti'cally sig'nif'icant but slight increase in breast cancer inci'dence. ' And the more a' woman drinks, the more likely she is to develop breast cancer.
All things con'sidered, it might be true that alcohol is a' breast car'cinogen, as Dr. Steven Narod calls it in the' edi'torial accom'pa'nying the research study. Still, there's no proof of cause and effect: Other factors, like con'suming lots of food or perhaps some yet-''unidentified par'tic'u'larity about living in com'mu'nities with abundant food and alcohol, are potential co-''variables in this story.' But what if it is' true?
From the' edi'torial:
These findings raise an important clinical question: should post'menopausal women stop drinking to reduce their risk' of breast cancer? ' For some women the increase in risk of breast cancer may be con'sidered sub'stantial enough that ces'sation would seem prudent. ' However, there are no data to provide assurance that giving up alcohol will reduce breast cancer risk.
How I' see it is this: Everything's best in mod'er'ation, including enjoyment of one's life. ' You work, you rest, you have some' fun.
This evi'dence is not like the strong data linking cig'a'rettes to smoking that offi'cials sat on for a' few decades under the influence of the tobacco industry. ' This is a' plau'sible, mild, and at this point well-''documented correlation.
I don't deny the some'times harmful effects of alcohol; no sane physician or edu'cated person could. ' But if you have a' glass of wine, or even a' second, so long as you don't drive a' car or work while affected, I' don't see it as anyone's business but your own.' More gen'erally, I' worry about how much judging there is by people who behave imper'fectly, and how that can make indi'viduals who are good people in most ways feel like they don't deserve to be happy or enjoy their' lives.
Women, in my expe'rience, are gen'erally more vul'nerable to the put-''downs of others. ' And so my concern about the BC-''alcohol link is that this will, somehow, be used, or have the effect of, making sur'vivors or thrivers or women who haven't even had breast cancer feel like they're doing the wrong thing if they go to a' party and have a' drink. ' And then they'll feel badly about themselves.
Really I'm not sure what more to say on this loaded topic, except that it points to the deeper and broader ethical dilemma of doctors who are not all perfect examples of mod'er'ation, expecting and asking other people to change their per'sonal habits when they them'selves like to go out and have fun, and drink, at parties, or have wine in the evenings over dinner in the privacy of their' homes.
How shall I' resolve this' post?
Last night I' sipped' Sleep'ytime tea, man'u'fac'tured by Celestial Sea'sonings, before reading a' book. ' The stuff is said to be 100% natural, with 'a soothing blend of chamomile, spearmint and lemon'grass.' I' tried it first a' few weeks ago and, by a' placebo effect or through real chem'istry, it helps me sleep more soundly.
I've absolutely no idea what are the effects of 'Sleep'ytime tea' on breast cancer. ' It might help, it might hurt, or it might do nothing at' all.
More Blog Posts by Elaine Schattner
Elaine Schattner, M.D., is a trained oncologist, hematologist, educator and journalist who writes about medicine. Her views on health care are informed by her experiences as a patient with scoliosis since childhood and other conditions including breast cancer. She is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, where she teaches part-time. She holds an active New York State medical license and is board-certified in the Internal Medicine subspecialties of Hematology (blood diseases) and Oncology (cancer medicine). She writes regularly on her blog, Medical Lessons. You can follower her on Twitter @ElaineSchattner.
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|Jane Dsouza says|
February 23, 2013 at 4:46 PM
Robots to detect breast cancer and cure. http://breastcancerupdates2012.blogspot.com/2013/02/will-robots-detect-and-cure-breast.html
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