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New research from UCC and Breakthrough Cancer Research highlights common cancer myths amongst Irish men.

Research released today confirms that many men in Ireland are still unaware of common cancer risks, wrongly believing that the disease can be caused by laptops, injury and tight underwear.

The survey, carried out by researchers at University College Cork (UCC) in association with Breakthrough Cancer Research (Breakthrough), investigated the level of understanding of cancer risk factors amongst Irish males (1). The results of the research have been announced as part of Breakthrough’s #MySmallChange campaign.

Dr Ryan, Dietitian and Lecturer in Nutritional Sciences in University College Cork and co-author of the research states: “Worryingly Irish men still seem to underestimate alcohol as a risk factor in developing cancer, with 66% incorrectly believing that red wine protects against cancer. At a time when the World Cancer Research Fund has warned that the claimed benefits of drinking red wine for heart health are less than previously thought and are outweighed by the harmful effect alcohol has on cancer risk, it is important that we understand the role alcohol plays in increasing our cancer risk.”

Read more: Breakthrough Cancer Research

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Cancer Research UK wrote in their World Cancer Day 2017 BLOG POST by Emma Smith how liver cancer affects different regions across the world. “We´re focusing on cancer that starts in the liver (primary liver cancer), not cancers that begin in other organs and spread to the liver.”

Liver cancer isn’t that common in the UK. It accounts for around 2 in every 100 newly diagnosed cancers each year and is the 17th most common type of cancer. But since the late 1970s, liver cancer rates have more than tripled in the UK – a sharp rise compared to other types of cancer.

Globally, however, liver cancer poses an even bigger challenge.

It’s the 6th most common cancer worldwide, approaching 800,000 new cases diagnosed each year, mostly in low-to-middle-income countries.

And if you look at the map above, the regions hardest hit by liver cancer are parts of Asia and Africa.

So what’s behind the rising rates of liver cancer in the UK, and why are rates much higher in Asia and Africa?

Alcohol and liver cancer

It’s estimated that around a third of liver cancers in developed countries are caused by alcohol.

And looking at global figures, there is a high level of alcohol consumption in developed countries (particularly in Russia and the Eastern bloc). The picture is very different in less developed countries, where drinking levels are low. And a similar pattern is seen in regions where religious beliefs mean people don’t drink.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s Chair in Behavioural Research for Cancer Prevention based at the University of Stirling, says that drinking patterns in the UK have changed in the last few decades, and cancer rates may reflect this.

“In the UK we’ve actually seen a small decrease in the amount of alcohol people consume on average since 2008. But between 1980 and 2008 sales of alcohol shot up by 42%, and we’re very far from getting back down to pre-1980 levels,” she says.

“And like smoking and lung cancer, liver cancer caused by alcohol abuse takes many years to develop. So we’ve probably not seen the peak of liver cancer rates linked to alcohol yet, and it’s forecast to carry on rising.”

Read further from CANCER RESEARCH UK

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Report published in December 2016 by The Swedish Society of Medicine, IOGT-NTO and CERA (Gothenburg University).
“Healthy living and lifestyles are a strong trend in Sweden, but no other EU nationality knows less about or is less aware of the link between alcohol and cancer. And given that alcohol is the second most common contributory factor in terms of the global cancer burden, according to the World Health Organisation, this is something we are keen to change. Which is why we hope that this report can help boost knowledge levels and awareness, and increase interest
in the issue, both in the health care sector and in society as a whole,” write publishers in the foreword of the report.
Find the English version of the report HERE

Seminar that took place at the launch of the report

Seminarium Alkohol och Cancer på Svenska Läkarsällskapet from alkoholhjalpen on Vimeo.

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This expressly seductive spot was created for a target audience of teenagers and young adults. Broadcast on France’s music video channels, it was designed to highlight the dangers of associating alcohol and tobacco (vastly increased risk of throat and esophagus cancer).
By La Ligue Nationale Contre Le Cancer (French League Against Cancer).

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The process of debating provides individuals with a means of discussing controversial issues in a spirit of openness and self-reflection using reasoned arguments and measured objectivity. In a debate, those who hold divergent views show tolerance, avoid emotionality and abstain from invectives and rudeness. Debating may not end in agreement, but it should generate a robust analysis and help to improve understanding of the issue being considered. A debate is not the arena to proclaim truths. Rather, as the philosopher Karl Popper noted: ‘I may be wrong and you may be right and, by an effort, we may get nearer the truth’.

In Addiction, each issue includes research reports and reviews based on the latest scientific evidence, written using neutral language, presented in a standardized academic format and cautiously noting limitations. However, the journal also reserves space for reasoned opinion-based editorials, letters, commentaries and book reviews. Several years ago, we introduced ‘For Debate’ papers into the journal’s menu. Henceforth, this series will be renamed ‘Addiction Debates’.

Find debate articles and commentaries from February issue of Addiction

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A team of researchers at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) has found an epigenetic modification that might be the cause of 15% of adult cancers of the throat linked to alcohol and tobacco use. This is a first in the field of epigenetics and the researchers are hopeful that the discovery can blaze a path in the development of new, targeted, more effective treatments that could arise over the next few years.

“This discovery was absolutely unexpected since it seemed highly improbable that the kind of alterations of the epigenome that we had previously found in other types of tumours in children and young adults could also target an epithelial tumour like throat cancer that occurs only in adults,” explains Dr. Nada Jabado, a researcher at the RI-MUHC and one of the principal authors of the study published in Nature Genetics.

Head and neck cancers, also called oropharyngeal cancers or throat cancer often have devastating consequences. Standard treatments involve surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the side effects of these treatments are significant and relapses are common. That’s why oncologists are searching to develop more effective treatments that will be less harmful and have fewer deleterious effects. The discovery of this epigenetic modification opens new treatment possibilities. In fact, some promising drug molecules are already on the market for other illnesses and could possibly be tested for head and neck cancers as well as other cancers like multiple myeloma and lung cancer.

Dr. Jabado, who is also a pediatric hemato-oncologist, has hopes that this discover will have positive repercussions for pediatric cancers as well. “Now that we’ve identified this cohort of patients, we can move quite quickly since in the case of adults, as opposed to children, there are more patients and lots of clinical trials. The medicines could then be tested on children afterward.”

About the discovery

Dr. Jabado’s work focuses on epigenetics in pediatric cancers, and more specifically on the mutations of histone H3. Histones are proteins that package the structure of our DNA and regulate the expression of our genes. For this group of researchers, collaboration between scientists and access to the vast genomic databases of patients around the world is essential. They were particularly intrigued by a 2015 publication by the Tumor Cancer Genome Atlas Consortium (TCGA) on head and neck cancer that mentioned one of the genes that regulates H3.

“We made use of the same data but took a completely different approach. Instead of concentrating on genetic mutations, we looked at the effect of these mutations on histone H3 proteins. That’s when we discovered that the histone H3 protein was abnormal or incorrectly modified in about 15% of patients with head and neck cancer. The data were there, but this fact had gone unnoticed,” explains Dr. Jacek Majewski, a researcher at McGill University and one of the principal authors of the study.

“It’s crucial to have access to public data, because it allows us to advance faster and go further in our analyses. In our case, this discovery revealed a sub-group of patients who might benefit from a therapy that targets the epigenome. This could improve the treatment of more than one in five patients suffering from devastating oropharyngeal cancer,” points out Dr. Jabado. “We are currently collaborating with two big groups specializing in head and neck cancer with the goal of finding treatments.”

About the study

The study Impaired H3K36 methylation defines a subset of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas a was co-written by Simon Papillon-Cavanagh, Chao Lu, Tenzin Gayden, Leonie G. Mikael, Denise Bechet, Christina Karamboulas, Laurie Ailles, Jason Karamchandani, Dylan M. Marchione, Benjamin A. Garcia, Ilan Weinreb, David Goldstein, Peter W. Lewis, Octavia Maria Dancu, Sandeep Dhaliwal, William Stecho, Christopher J. Howlett, Joe S. Mymryk, John W. Barrett Anthony C. Nichols, C. David Allis, Jacek Majewski, Nada Jabado

About the RI-MUHC

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) is a world-renowned biomedical and healthcare research centre. The Institute, which is affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University, is the research arm of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) – an academic health centre located in Montreal, Canada, that has a mandate to focus on complex care within its community. The RI-MUHC supports over 460 researchers and close to 1,300 research trainees devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental, clinical and health outcomes research at the Glen and the Montreal General Hospital sites of the MUHC. Its research facilities offer a dynamic multidisciplinary environment that fosters collaboration and leverages discovery aimed at improving the health of individual patients across their lifespan. The RI-MUHC is supported in part by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS). rimuhc.ca

Source: McGill University Health Centre

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For every new baby born, for every minor victory in life won and lost, when we get married, when we get divorced, when we baptise our children and bury our dead, there is an acceptable poison to proffer up.

In fact, many people would say it’s rude not to. Not only do we offer it for significant occasions, but any gathering will do: an after-work meet-up, a work conference, a relaxing evening at home – maybe you have it in your hand now?

Alcohol is omnipresent in Western society, an acceptable poison, culturally ingrained with special indemnity. Indeed, public opinion is, overall, positive towards alcohol – when drunk in moderation, of course.

So the recent drumbeat of warnings about alcohol being a risk factor for cancer, even when drunk sensibly, creates an inconvenient dichotomy.

Our heads see that moderate alcohol consumption could be bad for our health, and attitudes need to change, as with smoking 50 plus years ago.

Dry run
But our hearts see the cultural and social significance. Imagine a wedding with no toast to the bride and groom? Or an evening down the pub, chatting with friends – would it be as much fun if the pub was dry?

There is also a lot of confusion and hypocrisy surrounding alcohol – it really is ridiculous. The government advises us that there is no safe level of alcohol to consume, and that all drinking carries a risk, but then still publishes guidelines on how much we can have.

And comments from the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, that we should ask ourselves before every drink, “Do I want this glass of wine or do I want to raise my cancer risk?” are beautifully provocative but absurd. I don’t think it helps the public to play mind games, and make every drink a life and death decision, riddled with guilt.

Special status
Putting aside the mixed messages however, Dame Sally and co do have a point. Why do we continue to pour a known cancer-causing poison down our necks? Would any other harmful substance be given such a special status – an aperitif of radioactive polonium-210 before the wedding breakfast sir?

Or less ridiculous perhaps, what about a silver platter of cigarettes offered around, with cultural pressure to join in and have a puff? This would be completely unacceptable. And should alcohol, a known carcinogen, still be given out at cancer conferences?

Next consider government policy, which has been consistently soft on alcohol, freezing duty on booze budget after budget, while tax on ciggies goes through the roof.

Nanny state?
Minimum alcohol pricing was also strangely resisted. The government appears scared and confused in its policy on alcohol, paralysed by the cries of being a ‘nanny state’.

And while it’s true that the worst of the binge-drinking culture has abated, with young people now drinking less, there is instead a bulging group of moderate drinkers.

So how do we resolve this conflict?

Should alcohol consumption be marginalised, with negative publicity campaigns and tax hikes like smoking? This would surely save lives and improve public health. Heck, why not make the drinkers stand outside next to the smokers, or have them sit in separate rooms, so their noisy cheer doesn’t pollute the ears of sober guests.

Or alternatively should the risk of moderate drinking just be accepted, since, after all, every day we get older our cancer risk goes up. Maybe Dame Sally should ask herself: “Do I want to live my life today, or do I want to increase my cancer risk?”

‘A crutch for humanity’
The answer to this question lies deep in the roots of our society, in our perception of alcohol and the kind of future we want.

In a rapidly modernising world alcohol may find its place increasingly hard to defend: muscled out by the smoothie bars, bikram yoga and a life lived increasingly online. In this context alcohol starts to look like a relic of the past, a crutch used by humanity as it rose out of its post-industrial ashes into the brave new world.

I wouldn’t rush to write alcohol off, however. It will no doubt try to evolve to survive. Looking through a sentimental lens, in an increasingly depersonalised and ‘fake’ social media world, you have to admire its historical purity. Why not sit and have a drink with friends or colleagues, like our ancestors have done for thousands of years. The problems in life may have changed, from failed harvests or the Victorian workhouse, but the need for merry comradery still burns strong.

Personal risk
Ultimately it comes down to each individual; it’s their life and their choice. People will live their life events, toasting and commiserating them as they see fit. The veil is slowly lifting on alcohol – its link to cancer is challenging our views. How much longer society will continue to view it as an acceptable poison remains to be seen.

For now alcohol should stop being an automatic cultural choice; people who want to reject it should be emboldened to do so. But for those who don’t and accept the risk, they should be allowed to enjoy it in peace!

Kevin Litchfield is a PhD student at the Institute of Cancer Research
Twitter: @kevlitchfield

This article was first published on ICR blog. Republished with authors permission.

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Indy Power, Food Blogger, Author and Cook and Ethan Miles, actor and a famous Barman are both supporting the Irish Cancer Society in making the public aware of the sobering fact of the link between alcohol and cancer. They are reminding people that there is no ‘safe’ level of alcohol drinking and calling on people to know the size of a standard drink, which is around the same as a glass of beer or a small glass of wine, and limit the amount of alcohol they are consuming on a night out or pouring for others.

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A staggering 900 cases of alcohol-related cancer are diagnosed here every year, the Irish Cancer Society has revealed.

The organisation said that of those 900, 500 patients will die from the disease.

There are seven known cancers that are caused by alcohol – mouth, throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), gullet (oesophagus), breast, bowel and liver.

A shocking 10% of all cancers in men and 3% in women are caused by booze.

Read more from Irish Mirror

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Alcohol intake was associated with higher rates of invasive melanoma among white men and women. White wine carried the most significant association, and the increased risk was greater for parts of the body that receive less sun exposure.

Approximately 3.6 percent of cancer cases worldwide have been attributed to alcohol, most typically cancers of the aerodigestive tract, liver, pancreas, colon, rectum, and breast. Previous research has suggested that alcohol can cause carcinogenesis as the ethanol in alcohol metabolizes into acetaldehyde, which damages DNA and prevents DNA repair.

Overall alcohol intake was associated with a 14 percent higher risk of melanoma per drink per day. Each drink per day of white wine was associated with a 13 percent increased risk of melanoma. Other forms of alcohol–beer, red wine, and liquor–did not significantly affect melanoma risk.

The association between alcohol and melanoma was strongest for parts of the body that typically receive less sun exposure. Cho said that compared with nondrinkers, those who consumed 20 grams or more of alcohol per day were 2 percent more likely to be diagnosed with melanomas of the head, neck, or extremities, but 73 percent more likely to be diagnosed with melanomas of the trunk. She said this finding was novel and further research would be required to explain the results.

Source: News Medical Life Sciences
Study was published at Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research
Author: Eunyoung Cho, ScD, an associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

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