Friday, April 8, 2011...2:40 pm

Alcohol and the media – the ugly truth

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This morning’s report on the Today programme that “one-in-10 of all cancers in men and one-in-33 of all cancers in women are caused by past or current alcohol intake” must have come as a bit of a shock (source: BMJ).

After all, it was only a month or so ago that we were told that alcohol in moderation “can help prevent heart disease”. Which is good news.

So good that the media was all over it like a rash. Just like they are with the cancer thing.

But wait – surely the cancer news isn’t actually new. Here’s a page from Cancer Research UK from 2009 that says, basically, “alcohol gives you cancer”. And it links to a whole host of studies to prove it (or, “prove” it, depending on your level of scepticism).

As for the benefits to your heart, well – here’s another BBC news story, this one from 2005, reporting findings published in the Lancet. It seems a New Zealand team of researchers claimed that previous studies claiming that moderate drinking had cardiac benefits were “flawed”.

The killer quote?

Indeed, there is more evidence that heavier drinking provides the most heart protection – alcoholics have relatively ‘clean’ arteries – they say.

Oh, for god’s sake. None of this is news – not really. Scientific studies – and scientific studies of scientific studies, which is what the most recent ones have been – happen all the time. And they tend to contradict the ones that have gone before. And they will, in turn, be contradicted by ones that come afterwards.

Just go out in the sunshine and have a beer. We’re all going to die anyway…

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