Monday, October 1, 2018

Giving Up the Booze

Zelda doesn't care if I drink Martinis or not.
Nearly six months ago, I essentially stopped drinking alcohol.

It wasn't because I have problems with addiction or dependency; quite the opposite. As I wrote in an earlier post, I've always been a moderate drinker and virtually never drink to excess. No, the reason for giving up alcohol was a health scare my wife had this spring. Something unexpected showed up on her mammogram. We were of course worried it might be cancer, but it turned out to be nothing. However, the doctor did inform my wife that she was at a higher risk for breast cancer thanks to her unusually dense breast tissue. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Women with dense breasts, but no other risk factors for breast cancer, are considered to have a higher risk of breast cancer than average." The Susan G. Komen organization states that "Women with high breast density are 4-5 times more likely to get breast cancer than women with low breast density."

Another risk factor when it comes to women and breast cancer? Drinking alcohol. It's an underreported risk factor but a well-established one. With that in mind, my wife decided to stop drinking alcohol. So did I, more or less (details on the wiggle words to follow). I did so out of solidarity, and because having a glass of wine or a beer in front of my now teetotalling wife does not appeal to me. For the record, she never once asked me to quit drinking.

Shortly after we chose to give up alcohol, I came across an article in Mother Jones magazine going into great detail about the cancer risks of booze for both men and women. A short excerpt:
On 1988, the World Health Organization declared alcohol a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning that it’s been proved to cause cancer. There is no known safe dosage in humans, according to the WHO. Alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer, but it kills more women from breast cancer than from any other. The International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates that for every drink consumed daily, the risk of breast cancer goes up 7 percent.... The research linking alcohol to breast cancer is deadly solid. There’s no controversy here. Alcohol, regardless of whether it’s in Everclear or a vintage Bordeaux, is carcinogenic. More than 100 studies over several decades have reaffirmed the link with consistent results. The National Cancer Institute says alcohol raises breast cancer risk even at low levels. 
The article also states that "researchers estimate that alcohol accounts for 15 percent of US breast cancer cases and deaths—about 35,000 and 6,600 a year, respectively." 
There's still espresso.
The article strongly reinforced our decision regarding alcohol. I highly recommend giving it a read, especially if you are a woman, though if you are a man with a family history of cancer (like me), you should read it as well. Really, everyone should probably read it.
Now, back to those earlier weasle words, about me "more or less" giving up alcohol. Since my wife and I made our decision, I haven't had a drink, nor have I especially wanted one. However, I could see potential circumstances in which I might cheat a little. For example, I'm not going to say I'll never join a friend for a beer ever again. That could happen. But, to be honest, I very rarely find myself in social drinking situations anyway so the little escape route I've provided myself with the phrase "more or less" might prove to be irrelevant.
Finally, though I'll probably change the main photo on this blog at some point, I'm not going to engage in some sort of Stalinesque whitewashing of history and delete any of my older alcohol-related posts. You can still find my thoughts on bargain bourbon, the joys of Campari, and mixing the perfect Martini.