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Shock horror! Yet another of life's pleasures may increase the risk of cancer

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Well, today the Salvation Army has decided to wage war on alcohol, saying we should be putting warning labels on alcohol to warn people that it increases the risk of cancer. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t provide any references to the research that they are referring to, but that won’t stop The Mill.

The first thing that comes to mind when looking at this sort of research is just how scientific the approach is. There are so many factors that need to be kept constant to accurately measure an increase in risk. First, your group of people have to have the exact same existing levels of risk. Then, you need to ensure the only factor that may increase their risk is alcohol. I’m sure we’ve come a long way in the field of research, but I just don’t think we can adequately do this.

And then there are the countless other things that they (people who aren’t me) say increase our risk of cancer, like standing too close to power lines, microwaves, mobile phones and all the other fun gadgets that make life great. Oh, and then there is smoking!

So when you have your perfect test group you have to monitor and control them long enough to see whether their risk level increased. And the best way for that to happen is to wait until they get cancer. But the actual cause of the cancer isn’t what they are looking at, merely risk, and anyone can fudge those numbers.

So now I have to ask whether the Salvation Army could have an alterior motive to reduce alcohol consumption. Perhaps they are marketing a new line of non- alcoholic drinks, but more likely they deal with a number of other problems which may be related to alcohol. Perhaps they want to encourage “winos” to stop spending their money on booze and instead buy food, clothes and maybe even take a shower. Personally I don’t think cancer is high up on the list of concerns faced by the homeless.

I remember being told by a reasonably reputable source (I don’t remember who they were, just that they were reputable) that just about everything can cause cancer. The trick it seems is to die of some other way before cancer gets you.

Of course, boozehounds have many other ways that are likely to knock them off before cancer gets them. Anything from car accidents, bar brawls, nude drunken swimming and playing chicken with cars can lead to a premature, cancerless death.

So, why not eat, drink and be merry and enjoy life while you are living it? After all, death is inevitable (probably).The Mill encourages drinking in moderation. If you must binge drink, be sure to do it with friends who can help you and not leave you in a bus shelter or gutter for the night. The Mill also acknowledges the plight of the homeless and in no way suggests that all homeless people are constantly off their face on booze.

Cancer warnings needed on alcohol, Salvation Army says. 18/09/2006. ABC News Online