Public Health Nannies Want to Stop You From Boozing. Why? Because Cancer

On the other hand, drinking may also reduce cardiovascular risks and boost your income. It's also a pleasure.


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The great thing about modern epidemiology is that you can find multiple studies to justify just about any public health policy you happen to favor. If you have a bias, there is plenty of confirming evidence from which to cherry pick.

Now come the doyens of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) with their statement on alcohol and cancer. ASCO cites research estimating "3.5 percent of all cancer deaths are attributable to drinking alcohol" in the United States. That would mean some 21,000 of the 596,000 Americans who died of cancer in 2016 were killed by cancers associated with alcohol consumption. In comparison, smoking tobacco is estimated to cause 32 percent of all cancer deaths (about 120,000 deaths).

Drinking booze is specifically associated with oropharyngeal and larynx cancer, esophageal cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, breast cancer, and colon cancer.

The group treats consuming alcohol as a pure public health problem to which the only solutions are various forms of prohibition. They recommend regulating alcohol outlet density; increasing alcohol taxes and prices; maintaining limits on days and hours of sale; enhancing enforcement of laws prohibiting sales to minors; restricting youth exposure to advertising of alcoholic beverages; and resisting further privatization of retail alcohol sales in communities with current government control.

ASCO tells only part of the story about the health effects of drinking beer, wine, and spirits. There appear to be plenty of studies that find hard drinking increases an individual's risk of cancer. But the devil is in the cherry picking.

Lots of research finds light to moderate drinking involves a trade-off between a slightly higher risk of cancer and significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Of course, the folks at ASCO are aware of this issue. In an attempt to deal with it, the ASCO statement cites a line of research that argues that "the benefit of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular health likely has been overstated."

For example, one 2005 study referenced by ASCO warned that due to confounding effects, "nonrandomized studies about the health effects of moderate drinking should be interpreted with caution." As far as I can tell, the ASCO statement itself cites meta-analyses of mostly nonrandomized studies in support of its claims that drinking alcohol causes cancer. Gander, meet sauce.

Claims for the cardiovascular benefits of moderate alcohol consumption remain somewhat controversial. That being said, a huge new meta-analysis in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) probing the relationship of alcohol consumption to all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer-related mortality in U.S. adults finds significant health benefits from light to moderate drinking. To some extent there is a trade-off between reduced cardiovascular risks and higher cancer risks.

The JACC researchers subdivided drinkers into six groups: lifetime abstainers, lifetime infrequent drinkers, former drinkers, and light drinkers (fewer than 3 drinks per week), moderate drinkers (more than 3 and less than 14 drinks per week for men and less than 7 for women), or heavy drinkers (more than 14 per week for men and more than7 for women). Binge drinking was defined as five or more drinks on one or more days per week.

ASCO asserted that "even modest use of alcohol may increase cancer risk." However, Medscape reports of the JACC study that "light and moderate alcohol intake predicted reduced all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortalities in both men and women." That's right, light to moderate drinkers not only had lower risks of dying from any cause or from cardiovascular diseases, but also lower risks of dying from cancer.

On the other hand, the JACC researchers found "the highest levels of alcohol intake were associated with increased all-cause and cancer mortality in men but not women." Interestingly, even heavy drinkers had a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases than did abstainers, infrequent, and former drinkers.


There are other trade-offs not considered by the ASCO authors. For example, a new study using 13 years of wage and drinking data from the 1997 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth finds that drinkers tend to attain more education and to earn more than do abstainers. Researchers found by the end of the 13-year period wages of drinkers were, on average, 40 percent higher than those of abstainers (about $18 per hour as compared to $13 per hour). In addition, the researchers found that binge drinkers on average earned more than non-binge drinkers. They speculate that binge drinkers spend less overall time drinking and therefore are a bit more productive than folks who tipple on a regular basis.

This new research bolsters the findings of the Reason Foundation's 2006 No Booze? You May Lose policy brief. That report cited data suggesting that "drinking leads to higher earnings by increasing social capital." Folks who drink with colleagues and clients create wider social networks that provide them with greater opportunities to earn more. According to the report, "self-reported drinkers earn 10-14 percent more than abstainers."

The ASCO statement does not recognize either the health or income trade-offs folks who choose to drink may want to make. Even more importantly, the ASCO researchers fail to acknowledge that some people are willing to make the trade-off between the pleasures of imbibing beer, wine, and spirits and possible health consequences.

Of course, excessive alcohol consumption is a real problem for some people causing harm to themselves, their families and their friends. The ASCO oncologists certainly have a role to telling us their best guesses with regard to the risks they think we may run from our consumption of alcohol.

The ASCO authors' role, however, should be limited to informing us of the risks of boozing and then let us make our own decisions with respect the trade-offs involved.

Disclosure: On occasion, I have been known to consume more than 5 alcoholic beverages at one sitting.

NEXT: Showdown Looming over Reform of Federal Surveillance Laws

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  1. Drinking booze is specifically associated with oropharyngeal and larynx cancer, esophageal cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, breast cancer, and colon cancer.

    I think that comes from people who drink a lot of wood extract, ie barrel-aged whisky.

    1. Shut up, I can’t hear you.

      1. mmmmm wood

        1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

          This is what I do…

      2. Have you expanded your horizons finally beyond pure hops extracts?

        1. Sometimes he just hauls off and punches himself in the mouth as hard as he can. It’s basically the same effect.

        2. Now look here, you fucking bigots. You’re the one’s whose tastes are deficient. I probably like everything you like for booze and more stuff too. How is that not better? Face it, you are sad, broken people jealous of my ability to enjoy all that the beer world has to offer.

          You might not like what I’ve got for beer right now, but I bet you’d dig my liquor cabinet.

          1. Unless it’s got some Budweiser (King of Beers) I ain’t having it.

            1. Those commie bastards support insulting the US flag, and aren’t even americans anymore.

      3. Shut up, I can’t hear you.

        Oh, I know this one! You should’ve laid off the rock music as a kid. And if you’re having trouble reading this, you should’ve laid off the masturbation too!

        I can only assume that, in the near future, four years of this shit will get me a medical degree.

        1. It was mostly the years of operating loud wood and metal working machinery without adequate hearing protection.

          1. Your parents must’ve been completely befuddled by all the home construction noises coming from behind the locked bathroom door.

    2. At lease they’re not blaming it for liver cancer, amirite?

  2. “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems!” – Homer Simpson

    1. mmmmm beer….

  3. “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems!” – Homer Simpson

    1. To squirrels!

  4. On the other hand, drinking may also reduce cardiovascular risks and boost your income.

    Not the way I do it.

    1. I’ll drink to that!

  5. “3.5 percent of all cancer deaths are attributable to drinking alcohol” in the United States.
    Even though BUCS calls me paranoid, I will drink to those odds.

  6. Everything gives you cancer…no protein, no booze, or nicotine.-Joe Jackson

    1. Everything I love is killing me. Cigarettes, Jack Daniels, and caffeine — Alan Jackson

      1. Everything I love is killing me. Black-White divide, Jesus Juice, propofol, and benzodiazepine — Michael Jackson

  7. Even healthy people die eventually. Depriving yourself of every form of enjoyment in some strange quest to live the most risk adverse life possible is bizarre. This kind of stuff has become its own retarded form of religion.

    1. Yes, but the quest to deprive other people of their pleasures to reduce risk in their lives is noble and pure.

      1. Yes, that gives me the feeling of moral superiority and doing good. And for these sorts of idiots that is the entire goal of life.

        1. TOP MEN!

      2. While I might not like IPA’s I’ll defend your right to drink them, I suppose.

      3. A liberal is someone who cringes at the thought that somewhere, somehow, someone is enjoying life.

        1. There is a tax for that.

        2. I thought that was a conservative.

        3. I think you are thinking of progressives.

        4. Pretty much anyone with a political agenda.

    2. The way I see it-am I really going to enjoy life at 90 (or even 80) the way I do now? My parents never smoked, drank in moderation, and my dad was an avid runner, yet both died of strokes in their 70s following a few years of declining health. My aunt is 90 and still going strong despite smoking Salems well into her 60s. It all depends on luck and your genes.

  8. My guess is that very heavy drinkers skew the data, not just because of booze, but they also probably don’t eat well, exercise, etc.

    1. Surely you don’t mean to suggest that human bodies are complicated systems and that no issue therein occurs in isolation!

      1. Just a random collection of cells, completely without design.
        That is why all studies contradict all other studies when it comes to what happens in or to a human body.

    2. *coughs*

      [realizes his name should be Full-Vice]

      1. I am gonna need you to cough again.

        1. This time turn your head

  9. Know what else causes cancer?


    Ban the Sun!

    1. Oh, and I almost forgot:

      The government should be able to ban alcohol because now that everyone’s health is everyone else’s business it’s only logical that your drinking should be banned because it causes my taxes to go up. Rinse, wash, and repeat with every other potential human activity.

      Plus, it worked out super well the last time we tried it. Sure, a ton of people died and a few went blind but that’s just the price of progress!


      1. Not to mention we would have to legalize sub-machine guns again – – – – – –

        1. It will be a lot more fun if we keep them illegal. I’m just sayin’?. . . . . . . .

    2. Candlemakers agree.

    3. Well, you should wear sunscreen everyday.

  10. Damn, I always sort of figured that drinking straight spirits must be good for your mouth and throat.

    1. It kills germs that cause sore throats.

    2. Pure grain alcohol Zeb. Only pure grain alcohol.

      1. ? Don’t let the days go by

    3. I thought you only drink Hoo Lawd.

      1. No, mostly whisky.

        My current go-to beer is Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA. Yum.

  11. Of course, excessive alcohol consumption is a real problem for some people causing harm to themselves, their families and their friends.

    Just last night a buddy of mine called me up, he recently got out of treatment that he put himself, he has a penchant for blackout drunk suicide attempts. Anyway he fell of the wagon, asked if I’d go grab a burger and beer with him. I did and we had a good heart to heart — it’s a true honor that I do not take lightly, being the sort of person that friends feel they can come to to confide in or talk to free of judgment, I only hope I am worthy of their trust.

    We shared a few beers, and discussed his outpatient classes he takes m-th, at the end I told him not to beat himself up about this, to go home and not put a heavy load on, wake up tomorrow and realize all you did was have a beer and a burger with a friend.

    Odd thing I wasn’t expecting is he was fairly adamant about me joining him at one of his meetings. I am well known as a lush, and I definitely push the envelope, I stay up late drinking whiskey on weeknights cause — hey I’m still young and other such bull shit that is really nothing more than rationalizations for other deep rooted personal problems. Hard to deny the appeals of a suicidal friend though, so I told him I’ll go with him to one, going to be a trip.

    1. There seems to be a phenomena where people who have the problem handling alcohol want to spend time trying to make you an alcoholic like they are instead of trying to fix themselves. Part of that is why they have a problem in the first place. They cannot just take care of themselves.

      Misery loves company, I guess. An alcoholic cannot just have one beer and that be enough, so neither can you.

      1. I like beer, but if I’m just going to drink one I’d just as soon have a diet coke. The (mild, socially responsible) buzz is the reason I drink beer.

        1. Well, you could go for a beer with a higher alcoholic content. There a Scottish Ale that 8.6% at Neptune’s Brewery, and it gives me a pretty good buzz. Trust me, it’s lots better than a diet coke! Enjoy.

  12. On the other hand, drinking may also reduce cardiovascular risks and boost your income.

    I’m pretty sure it is a drain on my income.

    It’s also a pleasure.

    Which is why it is worth it.

    1. I think they got cause and effect mixed up.
      People with high incomes have more stress in their workday and drink heavily to cope.
      Or so I’ve heard.

      1. People with higher incomes can afford to drink more.
        Especially when the government raises alcohol taxes.

  13. I quit smoking this year and want to quit drinking for health and weight reason, but I have this problem where I can drink a lot and not cause a problem for anyone. Can someone show me the way to rock bottom?

    1. Join the Communist Party?

      1. Becoming an ignorant radical would indeed be a bad sign. Do you go to meetings?

        1. I believe in Liberty and the Constitution, so I would not go to their meetings.

          You should go, they discuss everything you are for politically on their website.

          You know the saying: Communism control everything while socialism only control people and the means of production.

          1. You do know that I’m neither a communist nor a socialist? You do get that even the children who call themselves socialist in this country don’t really mean “Socialism”? Are you just fucking around or are you truly this confused about the difference between government controlling the means of production and social welfare policy?

            1. Aw, Tony. You’re trying to disavow your love of socialism now?

              You do get that even the children who call themselves socialist in this country don’t really mean “Socialism”

              You’re admitting that you’re stupid and I can clearly see that.

              Are you truly confused that you don’t that there is no difference in socialism between controlling the means of production (as in any state owned company), controlling the means of production (as in ObamaCare), and controlling the means of production (as in Social security and Medicare)?

              1. But somehow the armed forces, property rights, and whatever (streets?) are not socialism, because you like those things.

                1. Its not socialist if you voluntarily pay to cooperate and pool your money for defense and streets.

                  In a socialist state, you have no real property rights. The state controls your means of production on your property.

                  1. So are you saying that in the US, the tax dollars that go to the armed forces and roads are voluntary, but the tax dollars, which are extracted by exactly the same means, that pay for programs you think you don’t like, are not voluntary?

                    What does it mean to have voluntary taxes anyway? Can you decide you don’t want to pay one year, just cuz?

  14. “nonrandomized studies about the health effects of moderate drinking should be interpreted with caution.”

    “Interpreted with caution”? What does that even mean?

    1. Ignore the WrongFacts.

  15. It means read it with a gimlet eye.

  16. Didn’t President Washington have to quell a rebellion over taxes on whiskey?

    Fuck off, Dr. Slaver.

    1. Yeah, kinda like a precursor of modern times, with east coast finance-political insiders going after the deplorables out in the hills.

  17. I’m going over to Neptune’s Brewery in Deadrock, Montana and have myself a Chocolate Porter. OMG! It tastes so damned good. For those of you unfamiliar, Neptune’s has at least 10 beers on the board every afternoon, a beautiful marine aquarium, a sushi bar, and the best, damned staff you’ll find anywhere.

    Now here’s the deal: they need to have a population that goes to the bar, enjoys the conversation and fun, but doesn’t drink ?. as a control group. I think part of the benefit of drinking moderately could well be the socializing at the bar. I don’t want to be in the aforementioned control group; I’m having the Chocolate Porter when I go.

  18. I will quit drinking when they pry the bottle from my cold dead hands!

    1. 21A!

  19. Tony|11.9.17 @ 5:53PM|#

    But somehow the armed forces, property rights, and whatever (streets?) are not socialism, because you like those things.

    Socialism is state ownership and operation of the means of production. None of those things fall under that definition. Read a book.

    You do get that even the children who call themselves socialist in this country don’t really mean “Socialism”?

    I agree. They are typically confusing socialism with welfarism.

    1. American capitalism: work hard and you probably will get the stuff you want
      Euro socialism: work hard and be happy with not much stuff
      American socialism: don’t work and get stuff

      1. What parts of europe have you been to? Where my father’s from, no one works hard, unless you consider drinking enough red wine until you vomit and/or pass out is hard work. The government doesn’t provide much either, but it’s better than getting nothing, and since there’s no such thing as private industry where my dad is from, drinking is pretty much the only way to kill a day while waiting for a government subsidy. Mussolini’s nationalizing of private farmland still has ramifications for “that part of europe.”

  20. I have a dream; I dream that someday soon research into the causes of Cancer comes up with a simple, inexpensive, OTC cure with minimal side effects…so I can watch the whole Cancer Panic industry implode messily.

  21. ASCO needs a new acronym. I thought they were proctologists.

  22. I support the push to ban alcohol, drugs and smoking. I realize these things are “stress relievers” for millions of Americans, but if they wish to relax, they should rest a few weeks at their Maui estates instead. It wouldn’t hurt to go on year-long sabbatical to Tibet either to get more in touch with their spiritual sides. These are actual comments from Hollywood celebrities.

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