Ah, it’s October again, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and right on cue, it’s time to be insulted once more by the anti-alcohol bunch that can’t let any good deed go unpunished. This time around it’s Alcohol Justice — boy, have they been busy lately — who’s telling us how hypocritical we are for wanting to do anything to support the quest to find a cure for breast cancer. Alcohol Justice calls any such efforts a “mockery of public health, breast cancer advocacy, and alcohol policy,” and most importantly, a “mockery of breast cancer survivors and their loved ones.” Well, given that I lost my own mother to breast cancer and I love the fact that so many breweries, many of whom are my friends, take the time and effort to raise money for that cause, I have only two words for Alcohol Justice: “fuck you.”
You don’t get to decide how people spend their money, where they make their charitable donations or how. In the example highlighted in “If It Makes You Wealthy: Sheryl Crow & Treasury Wine Estates Sell Out Women’s Health,” the promotion they’re objecting to is a large wine conglomerate raising money for breast cancer research with Sheryl Crow’s support and participation, something that was announced this past July. Crow herself is a breast cancer survivor so they’re really thumbing their nose at her, too. If a cancer survivor chooses to try and do some good to raise money for a cause she feels personally invested in, it’s pretty shameless of you to try to grab headlines by calling her names and publicly telling her not to support that cause unless she does it the way they think it should be done.
They also take issue with Crow because the promotion is promising to “donate up to $100,000 to breast cancer charities,” an amount that Alcohol Justice derisively has decided is not nearly enough. I guess their first choice would be for her not to raise any money for breast cancer, but if she does, it had better be a large enough amount to satisfy them. They’re taking this page out of the playbook of Breast Cancer Action, who a few years ago declared that everyone of us in the alcohol industry trying to do good, and raise money for breast cancer, should be “ashamed of ourselves.” I wrote about that when they went on television and insulted us, in Biting the Hand That Feeds You.
In the paragraph before Alcohol Justice calls me, and the rest of us in the alcohol industry who care about breast cancer, a mockery, they claim that “[p]romoting alcohol as a healthy product is a harmful public relations tactic,” and suggest that the problem is “cancer advocate Crow is applying her considerable celebrity capital to increase sales of a product that contributes to the incidence of breast cancer in women.” The study they cite is from 2011, Moderate alcohol consumption during adult life, drinking patterns, and breast cancer risk, which did indeed conclude that “[l]ow levels of alcohol consumption were associated with a small increase in breast cancer risk,” which other studies have also shown, but that’s not the entire story, of course. One thing these incidents tend to have in common is relying on just one particular study as the foundation for why we in the alcohol industry should be feeling guilty for trying to help raise awareness or money for breast cancer. But what about the bigger picture? Here’s what I wrote about this three years ago.
[A]t least one [study] done by Kaiser Permanente shows that it’s the amount that matters, the higher the intake the greater the risk, meaning moderate drinking has less risk.
Still others show just the opposite. For example, a 2008 study at the Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal showed that Compounds in Beer and Wine Slow Breast Cancer Cell Growth. Still another suggests that “xanthohumol found in hops [has] the potential to lower the risk of prostate cancer, [and] researchers believe it could also reduce breast cancer risk in a similar manner — by binding to the receptors on breast cancer cells and blocking the effects of estrogen which stimulates the growth of certain types of breast cancer.” That’s about the discovery that xanthohumol, a Cancer-fighting agent found in beer.
In a fact sheet about the relationship between Alcohol and the Risk of Breast Cancer at Cornell University, there’s this sage advice:
Researchers have reported that women who consume light to moderate amounts of alcohol have a decreased risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease. Since more women are affected by and may die from cardiovascular diseases than breast cancer, the recommendations regarding alcohol and breast cancer may seem to contradict the reports regarding cardiovascular disease. The 1996 Guidelines on Diet, Nutrition and Cancer Prevention from the American Cancer Society suggest that most adults can drink, but they should limit their intake. Given the complex relationship between alcohol consumption and different diseases, any recommendations should be based on information about all health risks and benefits.
Exactly. Of course women should make individual decisions based upon their family history and/or other personal factors, but making a pronouncement for everyone is wrong. The overall positive effects of moderate alcohol consumption have to be weighed against individual risk factors. For example, total mortality is effected positively by moderate alcohol consumption, that is numerous studies and meta-studies have shown that people who drink in moderation will most likely live longer than people who abstain completely or who regularly binge drink. And that’s taking into account both the negative and positive risks and rewards.
So once again Alcohol Justice is bending the truth for their own purposes, and making the world black and white, in which it’s their way or the highway. They know best. You don’t have to worry about thinking for yourself, not when they can do the thinking for you. I love that they refer to the wine company as “posing as a health advocate,” as if anyone is “anti-health.” As if the people, and yes those of us in the alcohol industry are indeed people, even if Alcohol Justice paints us as less than human, wanted people to get breast cancer. Even if it were true that everyone who drank alcohol would get cancer (it’s not) why would anyone object to us donating money to finding a cure for it or helping to build awareness? So many people’s lives have been touched by cancer generally, and breast cancer in specific, but the way Alcohol Justice frames it, none of us should have anything to do with alcohol, or we’re mocking our loved ones. How many other professions or industries would they want to ban people from engaging in if they might result a potential danger. Should people who work for gun companies be ashamed of themselves because others may use a gun in a crime or to murder someone? Should fast food workers feel guilty because the people who buy their food might be eating the wrong kinds of food, leading to health problems, obesity and disease, and might place a burden on the healthcare system. Do you know what the ultimate cause of death is? Living. As R.D. Laing quipped. “Life is a sexually transmitted disease and the mortality rate is one hundred percent.” We all make choices about how we use the time that’s afforded each of us. And Alcohol Justice can jump down off their high horse and stop telling the rest of how to live our lives. That would certainly improve the time I have left on this world, so I can get back to enjoying myself with a good beer.