by Moriah Armstrong, Director, Orcas Island Prevention Partnership
I would like to correct the Healthy Drinking “Factoid” which I submitted in the 2008 Healthy Youth Healthy Communities Prevention Special regarding the recommended moderate amounts for alcohol consumption for adult men or women who drink. I also want apologize for any confusion it may have created for readers of the insert or for individuals who are working to achieve or maintain sobriety.
Public health guidelines recommend no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. Often linked with that healthy consumption level is the maximum amount that someone should not exceed in a week – no more than seven drinks per week for a healthy female or 14 drinks per week for a healthy male. While the math is correct, someone seeking to justify their consumption of an excessive amount of alcohol on a single day could easily misconstrue these upper weekly limits. It is indeed dangerous when someone consumes that upper weekly limit of alcohol in one or two sittings or to drink at all if they have health issues, including alcoholism.
While people have been assured that a glass of red wine every day can be good for them, a recent article in the Chicago Tribune (Oct. 17, 2007 edition) announced that “mounting evidence finds even moderate drinking may increase your risk of breast and colon cancer.” The article reminds us that researchers have known for a long time that drinking alcoholic beverages can cause cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and liver, but now two of the four major killer cancers have been added to the list — breast and colon cancer. Those who limit their alcohol consumption to the healthy guidelines increase their chances of developing these two most deadly cancers by 13 to 15 percent respectively. Those risks increase dramatically the more a person drinks beyond those guidelines.
In fact, alcohol consumption is the third biggest cause of preventable death in the U.S. after smoking and obesity according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As always, risk is related to a complex set of individual factors — age, gender, genetic tendency, stress, and behavior.
Life is a juggling act — no doubt about it. Each moment is an opportunity to enjoy, to learn, to adjust, and to take more responsibility for our own health.
In closing, I would like to express a sincere thank you to the island papers for publishing the prevention insert each year for the past seven years. That, too, is a juggling act by a small and dedicated staff, but hopefully this insert adds to our community awareness of the great work done in our community for prevention of drug and alcohol abuse.