Health and wellness

Even one alcoholic drink a day can increase risk of cancer, study finds

Research links 3.5 per cent of all cancer-related deaths with alcohol consumption. Plus, an experimental peanut allergy patch shows promise. And the cost of the global diabetes epidemic tops US$850 billion a year

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 November, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 November, 2017, 8:03am

Do you enjoy the occasional cocktail? Beware: even moderate consumption of alcohol can increase your risk of cancer, according to a new report.

Researchers from the American Society of Clinical Oncology recently conducted an experiment, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, to determine the link between drinking and the disease.

They looked at several studies that found a strong correlation between alcohol and cancer. After gathering all the data, they concluded that about 3.5 per cent of all cancer-related deaths were due to alcohol consumption.

In 2012, they discovered that about 5.5 per cent of all new cancer occurrences and 5.8 per cent of all cancer deaths worldwide were attributable to drinking alcohol.

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“The importance of alcohol drinking as a contributing factor to the overall cancer burden is often underappreciated,” the organisation said. “Associations between alcohol drinking and cancer risk have been observed consistently regardless of the specific type of alcoholic drinks.”

While researchers did note the greatest risk was among those with heavy and long-term use and those who also smoked cigarettes, moderate drinking is risky, too. Scientists described moderate as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

This was particularly the case with oropharyngeal – throat and tongue and breast cancer.

But researchers aren’t suggesting you get rid of your booze altogether. They want individuals to recognise “that excessive alcohol use can delay or negatively affect cancer treatment and that reducing high-risk alcohol consumption is cancer prevention”, they wrote.

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To prevent high-risk alcohol consumption, researchers believe lawmakers and health care providers should implement specific strategies and policies, including limiting youth exposure to advertising of alcoholic drinks and raising alcohol prices and taxes.

Scientists also hope to conduct more research.

“Systems-based research,” the report said, “including research into successful means for the oncology community to identify patients who are currently using alcohol or who may be at high risk for alcohol relapse, will be critical.” Tribune News Service

Peanut protein patch promising for allergy

An experimental patch that delivers a high dose of peanut protein has shown promise in reducing allergic reactions in children and adults, researchers said on Tuesday.

About two per cent of US children are allergic to peanuts and must avoid them altogether. Two studies have estimated the prevalence of allergic reactions after eating peanuts in children living in Hong Kong to be 0.6 per cent and 0.3 per cent.

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Peanut allergies are on the rise, and are the most common cause of severe and fatal food reactions in the United States, according to researchers.

The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association enrolled 221 children and adults who are allergic to peanuts.

Participants were randomly assigned to three groups, each of which wore a Viaskin Peanut skin patch in different doses. A fourth group received a placebo.

The trial was designed to test which dose was best, and how well it would work over a year.

The highest dose tested, 250 micrograms, was most effective, and appeared to help half the patients who wore it. The placebo patch helped one-quarter of wearers.

Patients were considered “responders” if they took without incident either 1,000mg or more of peanut protein, or 10 times the pretreatment amount of peanuts.

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But since there were only 28 patients in the 250-microgram patch group, a larger study is needed to better understand how well it might work.

“The sample size of each treatment group was relatively small,” said the study led by Hugh Sampson of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

A further trial – which aims to expand on how the patch works – has been initiated in children aged four to 11 using the 250-microgram patch, according to the report.

In January, the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, urged parents to feed babies foods containing peanuts from the age of four months to five years.

This practice reduces by 81 per cent the risk of peanut allergy among infants deemed at high risk because they already had severe eczema, egg allergy or both, the agency said. Agence France-Presse

Diabetes bill hits US$850 billion

The number of people living with diabetes has tripled since 2000, pushing the global cost of the disease to US$850 billion (HK$6.63 trillion) a year, medical experts say.

The majority of those affected have type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and lack of exercise, and the epidemic is spreading particularly fast in poorer countries as people adopt Western diets and urban lifestyles.

The latest estimates from the International Diabetes Federation say that one in 11 adults worldwide have the condition, which occurs when the amount of sugar in the blood is too high.

The total number of diabetics is now 425 million and is expected to reach 693 million by 2045 if current trends continue. In Hong Kong, diabetes is the 10th leading cause of death, claiming 492 lives in 2015, according to the Department of Health.

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To prevent diabetes, the department urges people to maintain their optimum body weight and waist circumference through a balanced diet and regular physical activity, and to avoid alcohol consumption.

The high price of dealing with the disease reflects not only the cost of medicines but also the management of a range of complications, such as limb amputations and eye problems. Reuters