Poor media reporting insinuates “Red wine may reduce breast cancer risk in women”

Poor media reporting insinuates “Red wine may reduce breast cancer risk in women”

Recently a small, one-month-long, 36 women study was done by Chrisandra Shufelt, MD, assistant director of the Women’s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and colleagues.  The study was reported by the media in a way that suggested red wine somehow prevented cancer.  The study did not find this.  It found that red wine caused less body damage than white wine.  It did not find a lower risk for breast cancer associated with drinking red wine.  There was nothing proven at all but what did the headlines say in reporting this inconclusive research?

The Los Angeles Times headline was “Red wine prevents breast cancer?  I’ll drink to that”.
 
The KPCC headline was “Drinking red wine may reduce breast cancer risk”.
 
The Medical Express headline was “Moderate drinking may help cut women’s breast cancer risk”.
 
The CBS New York headline was “New Study Shows Red Wine May Reduce Cancer Risk In Women”.
 
And the worst headline of all?  The Boomer Health & Lifestyle headline of “Breast Cancer Risk Reduced By Drinking Red Wine”. 
 
Media manipulation
We know from long-term studies on millions of people – especially women – that all alcohol intake increases breast cancer risk.  Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) lists alcohol as a ‘Class One Carcinogen’.  So how can they get away with this kind of reporting?  This is disgraceful and makes you very suspicious of who is behind the pushing of this kind of headline.  Who will benefit from people skimming a headline that says “Red wine lowers breast cancer”?  Alcohol companies perhaps? 
 
Will people actually read the article and then discover that what the study found was nothing of the sort? 
 
Will people understand that nowhere was there solid evidence that “red wine lowers breast cancer risk?” 
 
Will they understand that the tiny, unproven, statistically unreliable, one-month study on only 36 women was not conclusive in any way at all? 
 
Will they then consider the ‘Million Women Study’ (done on 1.2 million women over many years) found conclusively and I quote, that “No amount of alcohol is safe for cancer risk”?  
 
Or will they read the KPCC sound bite that said “Red wine now has another potential health benefit: preventing breast cancer”?
 
And will they read The Boomer Health & Lifestyle article that said “Alcohol consumption is usually linked with higher breast cancer risk, but new research suggests that drinking red wine actually has the opposite effect”?
 
Experts agree that alcohol causes cancer
On alcohol and cancer risk:
 
Dr Nick Sheron from the liver unit in Southampton General Hospital has said “You cannot get a cancer cell occurring unless DNA is altered.  When you drink, the acetaldehyde is corrupting the DNA of life and puts you on the road to cancer.  One of most common genetic defects in man is our inability to counteract the toxicity of alcohol”. 
 
Karin Michels, ScD, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health has said “The alcohol association has been known for many years and is one of the modifiable risk factors for breast cancer”. 
 
James Garbutt, MD, of the University of North Carolina has said “There is now evidence showing that any amount of drinking increases breast cancer”. 
 
Tim Key, of the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit at Oxford has said “Alcohol has had a lot of good publicity.  People may not realize the risk they’re taking when they have a few drinks.  Any alcohol consumption will raise your breast cancer risk”. 
 
Naomi Allen, PhD, from the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, has said “The risk of cancer was similar in women who drank wine exclusively and in women who drank a mixture of alcoholic drinks…Breast cancer risk has long been known to be higher in drinkers…” 
 
Wendy Y. Chen, MD, of Harvard has said “We observed cancer increases with each 10g daily drink”. 
 
Professor Olver has said “Alcohol is one of the most carcinogenic products in common use”.  
 
Headlines create perceptions
Because people now read so much less and they do not investigate the detail in articles or the research and studies they cite, there is huge opportunity for misrepresentation of the truth (or a very biased fabrication of the facts, as is the case in this article).  If you actually read the study and the comments then nothing showed that red wine decreases breast cancer risk.  Nothing.  The headlines run by various news outlets across the world tried to twist this small non-conclusive study into some pro-alcohol propaganda. 
 
It is tragic that many women will read this headline and then subconsciously have it as an excuse to either continue to drink or to drink even more.  If you delved into the article then there were even statements buried away in the fine print saying “It’s not the alcohol in red wine that appears to conjure such magic.  It’s the phytochemicals, which also are found in grapes, grape juice and grape seed extract”. 
 
But that did not lead to “Fruits and vegetables lower breast cancer risk” headlines all over the world did it? 
 
What is reported is not the whole story
The CBS New York report said “new research shows that drinking red wine in moderation may actually help lower a woman’s chances of the disease...” however what the researcher ACTUALLY said was “it may actually be a change for risk factors for breast cancer”, meaning that RED WINE MAY BE LESS HARMFUL THAN WHITE WINE BUT COULD STILL BE VERY HARMFUL.  This is like saying that knife wounds to the heart are now not dangerous because gunshot wounds to the heart kill you faster.  
 
Hang on, how can 36 women disprove ONE MILLION women?
The CBS New York report went on to say “These new findings challenge much of the current research on alcohol and breast cancer”.  How can they seriously say this one short 36-women study, which DOES NOT say that red wine is good for cancer protection, can “challenge much of the current research…?”  This is irresponsible alcohol-promoting propaganda at its worst.  It is making a headline and a pro-alcohol article out of research that says nothing of the sort.  This reminds me of how cigarette companies used to use doctors to front their advertising campaigns and then put out bogus studies about how cigarette smoking was “good for the throat” when it was the absolute opposite.  
 
Companies love sustaining controversy to grow health cynicism
T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., former Senior Science Advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research, Director of the Cornell-China-Oxford Project on Nutrition, Health and Environment 1983-1990, and author of the comprehensive nutrition study; The China Study, summed it up very well indeed when he said “Sustaining controversy as a means of discrediting findings that cause economic or social discomfort is one of the greatest sins in science”.  Telling people that alcohol is a class one carcinogen will cause social discomfort no doubt.  However, it is the truth.  Here is a list of studies showing that alcohol directly causes a higher cancer risk.  
 
The 10 references below cover nearly 2 million women studied in countries around the world over a period of more than 30 years.  They all confirm the same thing: all types of alcohol cause cancer.
 
2011: A study published online in the journal Cancer on Sunday 13 November 2011.  Researchers from Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School conducted three health surveys on almost 7,000 girls ages 9 to 15 up to ages 18 to 27.  The analysis conclusively found the more alcohol the girls consumed; the more likely they were to develop benign breast disease - which raises breast cancer risk. 
 
2011: A meta-analysis study from 13 international studies was published in the peer-reviewed British Journal of Cancer, mid-2011.  It was carried out by researchers from the University of Oxford and was funded by Cancer Research UK.  The researchers gathered data on more than 6,000 women who did not have breast cancer to look at how their hormone levels related to factors such as their age, intake of alcohol and cigarettes, and weight.  They found that hormone levels, particularly oestrogen hormones, were higher in obese than lean women.  They also found that women who drank 2.5 or more units of alcohol (20g+) daily had higher hormone levels. 
 
2011: Alcohol consumption causes more than 5,000 cases of cancer in Australia each year according to The Medical Journal of Australia.  The Cancer Council analysis study was published May 1st 2011 and found more than 2,600 new cases of breast cancer every year in Australia are caused by drinking.  The researchers attributed 5% of all Australian cancers to long-term alcohol consumption.  Cancer Council guidelines state there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.  As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald on May 2, 2011.
 
2009: Study on 1,280,296 middle-aged women in the UK enrolled in the Million Women Study by Naomi Allen, PhD, from the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, in United Kingdom, as published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on February 24, 2009.  The huge analysis found that one drink of alcohol daily increased breast cancer risk 12%.  Drinking 10 grams of alcohol daily was also associated with a 24% increased risk for liver cancer.
 
2006: A study by Shumin M. Zhang and colleagues from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA and colleagues as published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, 2006, found that women who drank greater than 30 grams per day of alcohol were 32% and 43% more likely to be diagnosed with total breast cancer and invasive breast cancer, respectively, compared with non-drinkers.  The study was based on data from the 38,454-participant Women’s Health Study (United States, 1992−2004). 
 
2002: A study published in the British Journal of Cancer in 2002 found alcohol consumption causes around 1,700 British breast cancers every year in Britain, and rising.
 
1999: A study by Miriam Garland and colleagues of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 1999, found that drinking more than 20 grams per day or 10 drinks per week in the previous year was associated with 23% increased risk for breast cancer.  For average lifetime alcohol consumption, drinking 10 or more drinks per week was correlated with 20% higher risk.  The risk increase was particularly significant for those who drank alcohol at ages 23 to 30.  A total of 116,671 women aged 25 to 42 at baseline were followed for an average 6 years during which 445 cases of invasive breast cancer were identified.  As re-reported by David Liu, PHD with editing by Stacey Sexton on Sunday January 8, 2012 by foodconsumer.org.
 
1998: A meta-analysis of six worldwide studies on more than 320,000 women published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998, by Harvard scientists, determined that one drink a day led to a 10% increase in breast cancer risk and 2-5 daily drinks raised the risk to 40%
 
1992: A study by Susan M. Gapstur and colleagues of University of Minnesota School of Public Health as published in American Journal of Epidemiology, 1992, found that postmenopausal women whose alcohol consumption was 5g to 14g daily and 15g daily or more per day were 88% and 83% more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, respectively, among users of estrogen, compared with those who did not drink alcohol amongst those who used hormone therapy.  The researchers found age-adjusted relative risk for those who drank 15g or more of alcohol per day was 28%, compared with that for those who did not drink.  After adjustment for age, body mass index, age at first live birth, age at menarche, and family history of breast cancer, those drinking 15 or more grams per day were at a 46% higher risk for breast cancer.  This study was based on data from the Iowa Women’s Health Study, which enrolled 41,837 postmenopausal women aged 55 to 69 years.  As re-reported by David Liu, PHD with editing by Stacey Sexton on Sunday January 8, 2012 by foodconsumer.org.
 
1987: A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, 1987, found women who consumed three to nine drinks each week increased their risk of getting breast cancer by 30%, and the more they drank, the greater the threat.  This research came out of the prestigious Nurses’ Health Study.  Dr. Arthur Klatsky of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Oakland, California analysed the drinking habits of 70,033 women of various races between 1978 and 1985.  The findings were presented at a meeting of the European Cancer Organization in Barcelona, Spain.  Researchers found no difference in breast cancer risk regardless of wine, beer, or liquor.  Women who had one or two drinks daily increased their risk of breast cancer by 10% and three drinks daily raised their risk by 30%. 

Posted: Sunday 15 January 2012

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