Today’s issue of Cancer Research Update reports on an interesting new study about how our friends and family have a lot to do with our alcohol habits. It looks like who we socialize with – our social network up to three degrees of separation – influence if we drink heavily or nothing.
For cancer prevention, along with other chronic diseases, the amount of alcohol people drink is important. AICR’s expert report found that drinking any amount of alcohol increases the risk for cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and breast, and colorectal (in men): The more we drink; the higher the risk.
Today, at the American Association for Cancer Research annual conference, researchers presented a study that may help explain why. It has to do with the sections of DNA at the end of a chomosome, called telomeres. Scientists know that as we age, telomeres get shorter and shorter until the cell dies. Also, shorter telomeres are linked with increased cancer risk.
The new study found that telomere length was significantly shorter among a group of heavy drinks (22 percent consumed four or more alcoholic drinks per day) than those of a comparison group. You can read the release here.
An intriguing new Swedish study linking heavier girls to decreased breast cancer risk highlights just how complicated the link is between body fat and cancer.
AICR’s expert report, along with other major reviews, have found clear evidence that excess body fat causes many different cancers, including post-menopausal cancer. And research shows that heavier children are more likely to become overweight adults.
But when it comes to cancer risk, studies are increasingly showing that there are “windows of susceptibility” – various periods during a person’s lifetime when diet, body fat, and physical activity exert a stronger than usual effect upon our risk of getting cancer.
These “windows” are one reason that the effects of lifestyle at an early age matter.
In this study, the researchers focused on girls at age seven. They showed about 6,000 adult women nine pictures of girls, ranging from skinny to obese body types. The women chose the picture that best resembled them when they were seven years old. About half of the women in the study had post-menopausal breast cancer.
The women who said they were bigger when younger were less likely to develop the disease overall, and also less likely to develop ER negative’ breast tumors, a form more difficult to treat. Even when the authors took into account other risk factors, such as adult BMI and estrogen exposure, the decreased risk held.
The study is published in the journal Breast Cancer; you can read it here.