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New Zealand Women are dying for a drink

glass of rum whiskey alcohol on wooden table over defocused lights background

Breast cancer has direct links to alcohol intake

Whenever I talk about how alcohol is a carcinogen (a cancer causer), people have one of four reactions; their eyes glaze over, they go a funny shade of pale, they say “No it doesn’t!” or they nod sadly and say “Yes, I know…” Researchers have been studying breast cancer for decades. A small number of women inherit genes with mutations that make developing breast cancer much more likely. For most women, though, it is what happens during their lifetimes (obesity, being overweight, fattening foods, lack of fruits and vegetables, alcohol, cigarettes, oral contraceptives and hormone replacement drugs) – not the genes they inherited, that contribute most to breast cancer.

The study titled “Breast Cancer and the Environment: A Life Course Approach” was produced by the Institute of Medicine, a panel of independent medical experts headed by Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, chief of environmental and occupational health at the University of California, Davis.  The research found that substances to which women voluntarily expose themselves every day — fattening foods, alcohol, cigarettes, meat, sugar etc — are the highest risk drivers for breast cancer.

“Breast cancer risk could be decreased by up to 38% through lifestyle factors including maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet.  In fact, less than 10% of breast cancer appears to have a genetic basis.  For prevention of breast cancer, limiting alcohol is one of the most important things that you can do.  In addition, a plant-based diet loaded with at least two cups a day of a variety of produce is beneficial”

Sally Scroggs, MS, RD, LD and Clare McKinley, RD, LD, at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, one of the leading cancer hospitals in the world.

Alcohol pickles your liver
The reality is that your liver has to process alcohol and alcohol damages your liver. Every time your drink. If you ask the doctors that have to deal with the carnage and fallout from alcohol, they will tell you what alcohol really does. “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” says Dr Nick Sheron, from the liver unit at Southampton General Hospital. He would know.

Alcohol contributes hugely to breast cancer risk

Breast cancer is sold to us from the perspective that it is genetic. But 90% of cases appear in families that have no genetic history of breast cancer. Why is it that in most Western countries we have 1 in 10 or 12 women with breast cancer and yet in other places around the world it is virtually non-existent? Diet and lifestyle play a MASSIVE role in breast cancer creation, treatment and reversal.

“The association between alcohol and breast cancer has been shown over and over and has been known for many years…”

Karin Michels, ScD, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health.

Most breast cancer is not a death sentence at all. Consider how much you drink, whether you need to drink, why you drink, how you feel after drinking and if you could go without drink for a period, or for good. I gave up booze over 30 years ago. One of the best things I ever did. It is never too late to cut back or quit alcohol.

New Zealand Women are dying of breast cancer for a drink
Around a third of all alcohol-related deaths in New Zealand are due to cancer. These alcohol-cancer deaths are the two that Kiwi women fear the most; breast cancer and bowel cancer. Many of these deaths are in women who consider themselves ‘light’ or ‘moderate’ drinkers, drinking less than two glasses of wine a day.

“Given there are about 15 or so alcohol-related deaths a week in New Zealand, five are due to an alcohol-related cancer, and these cancers are preventable if alcohol use could be significantly reduced. Importantly, the research shows these cancers are not just occurring in people with severe alcoholism, but in fact are occurring more frequently in people drinking at much lower consumption levels. For instance, more than a third of breast cancer cases are occurring in women drinking less than two standard drinks a day. The crucial message is that a prevention strategy must be population-based rather than focussed on people with alcoholism”

Prof Doug Sellman, June 2016

Mild alcohol intake is causing cancer deaths every day in New Zealand

The latest New Zealand research has found that alcohol alone “was responsible for 236 cancer deaths in people aged under 80 in New Zealand in 2012”. That number would be much higher today. This is heading towards a person dying every day in New Zealand – just from alcohol-related cancer.

About 60% of all alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in New Zealand women are from breast cancer. Although risk of cancer is much higher in heavy drinkers, many alcohol-related breast cancers occur in women who are drinking at levels currently considered acceptable. What makes them so significant is that we know how to avoid them. Individual decisions to reduce alcohol consumption will reduce risk in those people, but reduction in alcohol consumption across the population will bring down the incidence of these cancers much more substantially, and provide many other health benefits as well. Our findings strongly support the use of population-level strategies to reduce consumption because, apart from the heaviest drinkers, people likely to develop cancer from their exposure to alcohol cannot be identified, and there is no level of drinking under which an increased risk of cancer can be avoided

Professor Jennie Connor, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, June 2016

What is the bottom line here?

  • Five people die each week in New Zealand from preventable alcohol-related cancers
  • Over 30% of all alcohol-attributable deaths in New Zealand, are due to cancer
  • This is higher than all the other chronic diseases combined
  • Alcohol-related cancer deaths in young people under 80, in 2012: 236
  • These deaths caused around 10 years of life lost per person
  • Cancers of the breast, liver, bowel, mouth, oesophagus, pharynx and larynx and are related to alcohol intake

Binge drinking creates breast cancer

“In addition to the standard warnings against excessive alcohol use in this age group, there is now additional evidence showing that any amount of drinking over the life course increases risk for breast cancer”

James Garbutt, MD, of the University of North Carolina.

Binge drinking in young women today is up 200% in the last 10 years
Cancer Research UK says one in five cases of breast cancer is now in women under the age of 50. This is a worldwide tragedy and will create so

much suffering, breast cancer and early painful death to unsuspecting young women in 10-20 years’ time. This will hit them just when they have young families and they are least able to cope with it. The heavily advertised culture of alcohol is creating mayhem in our societies and massive growth rates in diseases that are preventable. Binge drinking and alcohol abuse has permeated the very fabric of our world today and alcohol can be easily bought while you get your paper and bread.

As if it was a normal, safe and ‘every day’ substance.

It is not.

Alcohol-related breast cancer is on the steepest growth rates ever

So many people are plain unaware that one of the biggest risk factors for breast cancer (which hits one in seven women in the West now), is simply ‘drinking alcohol’. “It’s concerning to see a rise in the number of alcohol-related breast cancer admissions… and it goes to show how important it is to make women aware of the link between alcohol and breast cancer. In my experience, many women are often very surprised to find out that drinking alcohol can increase their risk of not only developing breast cancer but also of recurrence. I would encourage women to assess how much alcohol they are drinking and cut back…” said Dr Wendy Carr, a breast physician at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, in December 2014.

What does the independent research say?
Dr. Claudine Isaacs, professor of oncology at the Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and colleagues looked at 1,900 post-menopausal women and confirmed that:

  • One drink daily raises breast cancer risk by 30%
  • Two drinks daily raises breast cancer risk by 60%

Dr. Claudine Isaacs commented “the findings from this study are significant because there are relatively few breast cancer risk factors that someone can actually modify or do something about, and alcohol intake is one of them”.

Even low level alcohol intake raises breast cancer risk in women

We have the biggest explosion of binge-drinking that Western society have ever seen happening right now across the world. This is young women binge-drinking themselves into a stupor – over and over again – regularly on the weekends. It has become very cool for women to do this alongside men (who have stupidly done this for years). This damages women in a far deeper way. Graham A. Colditz, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis said “Since alcohol use is common in adolescent girls and young women, reducing alcohol consumption during adolescence/early adulthood is currently the only dietary strategy that may reduce risk of proliferative benign breast disease”.

Written by Jason Shon Bennett from ExceptionalHealth®.


  • Study by Dr. Claudine Isaacs, professor of oncology at the Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and colleagues, on 1,900 post-menopausal women, as published by the National Cancer Institute, 2012.
  • Study by Connor JL, Kydd R, Maclennan B, Shield K, Rehm J. Alcohol-attributable cancer deaths under 80 years of age in New Zealand. Drug and Alcohol Review 2016 DOI: 10.1111/dar.12443, in collaboration with the Global Burden of Disease Alcohol Group, as released by the University of Otago on Tuesday, 28 June 2016.



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