From local to national media, there's no shortage of sensationalist headlines saying that red wine can stop breast cancer.
Please - don’t pop open a bottle and celebrate. Yes, a recent study concluded that a chemical in grapes, resveratrol, can block the growth of some breast cancers cells. But the negative effects of alcohol on breast cancer are numerous and well documented. According to the American Cancer Society, even one drink per day increases the risk of breast cancer, and the risk gets even greater with more drinks. An editorial in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute said "from a standpoint of cancer risk, the message could not be clearer. There is no level of alcohol consumption that can be considered safe."
It is irresponsible to report on a study about resveratrol and jump right to red wine. The researchers did not study the effects of red wine, but rather the effects of one chemical in a test tube. Why not say that a glass of grape juice per day is the ticket? The resveratrol content is the same.
A San Francisco Chronicle report many years ago heralded the great news, “Pizza Found to Reduce Prostate Cancer in Men.” It wasn’t until the last paragraph that it mentioned that it was the antioxidant Lycopene in the tomatoes used to make the pizza sauce that had a protective effect. But how many guys celebrated with a couple of slices of cheese and pepperoni?
It is important to be a critical consumer of information, especially around health. There are too many people out to sell you anything, even if it’s just a newspaper. There’s a new superfood or supplement every day. Don’t think that some powerful agricultural boards aren’t thinking how they can market their crop as the next big thing. There’s a lot of PR going in to those bottles, so beware.
As for breast cancer, it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month after all, the American Cancer Society says to limit alcohol use, exercise regularly and stay at a healthy weight. "It's not clear at this time whether chemicals that have estrogen-like properties (like those found in some plastic bottles or certain cosmetics and personal care products) increase breast cancer risk," the organization said in a statement. "If there is an increased risk, it is likely to be very small. Women who choose to breast-feed for at least several months may also reduce their breast cancer risk. Not using hormone therapy after menopause can also help you avoid raising your risk.” They also encourage women to be tested so as to find cancers at an earlier and more treatable stage.
All very good advice. As for the wine, although there is enough science to say it’s good for our hearts, it also raises our cancer risk. Pour yourself a glass of grape juice - it’s a superfood.