Monday, April 28, 2008

Alcohol V Mammogram as Breast Cancer Cause

Thanks to television advertising, there are very few women who don't stress over getting breast cancer.
Jon Barron's "Baseline of Health Foundation" newsletter (you may subscribe here ) had an article today about a link between alcoholic beverages and higher rates of breast cancer.
One of the things included in his article is this: "Physiologically, the higher the estrogen levels in your body, the more readily alcohol is absorbed -- but the more slowly it is broken down. But the problem is compounded by the fact that the very act of drinking alcohol actually increases estrogen levels, almost tripling levels in post-menopausal women in a matter of minutes. As a result, after you drink, you get spurts of estrogen that can be as high as 300 percent higher within 30 minutes of consumption. In other words, it's one thing to have a constant amount of estrogen and occasionally have a rise before you ovulate. But if you get these rises in estrogen every time you have a drink, and for years past your ability to ovulate, this would quite likely be a significant breast cancer risk. The bottom line is that we know that estrogen levels increase after you drink. And we know that estrogen is linked to breast cancer. Therefore, it should be no surprise that estrogen is linked to breast cancer more often when women drink."
He makes some good points, and I hope you will visit his website to read the complete article "Alcohol and Breast Cancer," and subscribe to his excellent newsletter.
However, I got to wondering about the breast cancer rates for women in countries where alcoholic beverages, wine for example, are an integral part of every meal. Are their breast cancer rates as high as the United States?
What I found surprised the heck out of me (even more than the recent news headlines of "A study not only refutes some benefits of multivitamins, but suggests they may be 'slightly' risky." and "Drinking water is the same as drinking soda." (If you believe either of those statements, I'd love to discuss your purchase of a bridge in Brooklyn….)
First, some obligatory but especially enlightening statistics (quoted in blue):
The lifetime probability of developing breast cancer in developed countries is about 4.8%, according to the American Cancer Society (the probability is about 13% for any type of cancer). In developing countries, the lifetime probability of developing breast cancer is about 1.8%.
(Note: numbers are per 100,000.Source: J. Ferlay, F. Bray, P. Pisani and D.M. Parkin. GLOBOCAN 2002. Cancer Incidence, Mortality and Prevalence Worldwide. IARC CancerBase No. 5, version 2.0. IARCPress, Lyon, 2004)

Breast Cancer Worldwide
Breast (All ages)
United States

So, let's take a look at what we have here.
Developing countries like China have:
  1. Poor food
  2. Poor water
  3. Poor health care
  4. Archaic farming techniques (including crop rotation)
  5. Few cell phones
  6. Few televisions
  7. No pesticides
  8. No herbicides
  9. No fertilizers
  10. No hormones in the milk
  11. No Genetically Engineered and Modified foods
  12. No high fructose corn syrup
  13. No artificial flavorings or colorings
  14. No sunblock to protect them from cancer-causing sunlight
  15. Qigong and other holistic practices
  16. 82.4% fewer cases of breast cancer than the U. S.
The United States has:
  1. Genetically Engineered and Modified foods (some seeds are modified with antibiotic-resistant bacteria that prevents it from being killed by a popular brand of pesticide. I wonder if that is part of the reason that some people's bacterial infections cannot be controlled with antibiotics; they have ingested foods grown from antibiotic-resistant seeds.)
  2. Water contaminated with dozens of waste pharmaceutical products
  3. Health care that focuses on treatment rather than prevention
  4. Technologically advanced farming techniques that deplete the soil
  5. A cell phone for every ear
  6. A tv for every room
  7. Pesticides
  8. Herbicides
  9. Fertilizers
  10. Hormones in the milk
  11. High fructose corn syrup in 80% of the food products
  12. Plenty of artificial flavorings and colorings
  13. Sunblock to protect you from harmful sun rays and inhibit your body's ability to produce Vitamin D
  14. Pharmaceuticals for every condition under that harmful sun
  15. Breast cancer rates that are the highest in the world
Is it just me, or do you too see some advantage to living in a less-developed country?
Also arriving in today's email was the "Natural News Insider Alert" newsletter with an article about cancer research.
Here are a few excepts (in blue) from the article: Analysis: Virtually Zero Alternative Cancer Research Occurring. Monday, April 28, 2008 by: Adam Miller

(NaturalNews) In an article included in the latest edition of Cancer Monthly's free newsletter CancerWire, researchers analyzed statistics obtained through the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in order to gain a clearer perspective on what type of cancer research is being undertaken in the country.
The authors found that of the 7,080 clinical trials for cancer currently ongoing, over 3,000 are focused on chemotherapy -- a treatment that already has over 50 years of research to its credit with relatively little practical return on investment. Of the remaining trials, over 2,000 were focused on more advanced biological treatments such as anti-angiogenesis drugs, which work to cut off the blood supply to tumors.
Of the 7,080 clinical trials for cancer currently underway in the U.S., only three (3) focus on natural alternative methods of treating the disease. That is less than 1/1000th the number of chemotherapy trials alone and translates to a measly 0.04% of total trials. Meanwhile, countries like Japan are surging into the future with cutting-edge treatments based on derivatives of medicinal mushrooms and other natural substances.
Alternative treatments are commonly described by purveyors of orthodox medicine as those which have not yet been evaluated and proven effective through vigorous scientific evaluation. Looking at the actual statistics, though, it may be more accurate to describe alternative treatments as those which orthodox medicine refuses to research. In light of this evidence the question seems to ask itself; are we really working toward a cure for cancer?
My response would be: Nope.
And finally there's this fascinating study on breast cancer in Italy, one of the countries where women probably drink quite a bit of wine. Researchers found a direct correlation between the increase in breast cancer and a mammography screening program. (Quoted text in blue; bold emphasis added by Michelle)
Changes in breast cancer incidence and stage distribution in Modena, Italy: the effect of a mammographic screening program, Journal Cancer Causes and Control, Springer Netherlands, Volume 13 Number 8 October 2002, SpringerLink Date November 2, 2004
Daniela Turchetti1, Lucia Mangone1, Rossella Negri2, Giulio Rossi3, Laura Cortesi1, Marco Vinceti4, Antonino Maiorana3, Ennio Gallo5 and Massimo Federico1, 6
(1) Cattedra e Divisione di Oncologia Medica, Italy
(2) Centro Screening Mammografico, Azienda USL di Modena, Italy
(3) Istituto di Anatomia Patologica, Italy
(4) Dipartimento di Scienze Igienistiche, Microbiologiche e Biostatistiche, Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Italy
(5) Dipartimento di Diagnostica per Immagini, Policlinico di Modena, Italy
(6) Cattedra e Divisione di Oncologia Medica, Policlinico di Modena, Via del Pozzo 71, 41100 Modena, Italy
OBJECTIVE: Assessing changes in breast cancer (BC) incidence and stage distribution in the District of Modena, Italy, during the period 1992–1998, and their relationship to a mammographic screening program launched in 1995.
METHODS: Demographic, clinical, and pathological data of all BC cases reported to the population-based Modena Cancer Registry between 1992 and 1998 were collected and linked to the screening database.
RESULTS: A total of 3429 women were diagnosed with BC in the District of Modena between 1992 and 1998. In this period the incidence rate increased by 15.7% (from 134.3 in 1992 to 155.4 per 100,000 in 1998). The increase began in 1995 and exclusively included women aged 50–69; the incidence rose by 30.4%. Moreover, the rise was confined to early tumors, with more than half (54%) of all cases reported in 1998 diagnosed as stage 0 or I disease, compared with 42% in 1992. Screen-detected tumors were significantly smaller (13.2 mm) than other tumors diagnosed in women aged 50–69 (18.5 mm), with 46% of screen-detected tumors smaller than 10 mm. Overall, a decline in the average tumor diameter was shown (from 20.2 mm in 1992–1994 to 18 mm in 1996–1998).
CONCLUSIONS: Our data confirm that mammographic screening leads to an increase in the incidence of early-stage BC cancers.
Most women are aware by now that x-rays are known to cause cancer, so what do the people in charge of your health encourage you to do? Get mammograms on some of the most sensitive tissue in your body. I'm sure a lot of women in Italy are wishing they had not listened to that advice!
So, what do you think? Is breast cancer caused by wine (which people have been drinking for thousands of years without developing cancer in great numbers), or the modern and innovative mammograms?
While you ponder it, I'm going to have a glass of wine with dinner.
(In all seriousness, you do what your heart tells you is right for you. If you believe a mammogram is good for you, don't let me or anyone else talk you out of it! I, however, feel the risks are greater than the rewards.)


Geraldine said...

Wonderful post M! I agree with you wholeheartedly, there are some real 'holes' in the wine/alcohol/breast cancer theory. I totally agree that too much alcohol is not good for anyone but as you bring out so clearly, wine has been around forever and it didn't seem to have much in the way of ill effects, in moderation, for thousands of years.

As for mammograms, never have had one, never will. The campaigns and pressure tactics never rang true for me. I'm guessing Ill survive just fine, without one of these highly questionable procedures, let alone the 'yearly' recommended dose of added radiation. No thanks. G

Michelle said...

Hi G,

I have to agree...between the annual mammogram and the hormone replacement therapy recommended for women over 50, no wonder there are so many cases of breast cancer.

The best choices are to practice moderation in all things, eat organic, and get honest-to-goodness sunlight for 20 minutes a day (without wearing sunblock) so your body can make the right kind of Vitamin D that helps to prevent cancer.