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Roundup: Alcohol’s Link to Cancer Risk; Flu Season Peaking Early?; and Exercise Benefits for Women

Even Light Alcohol Consumption Shows Increased Cancer Risk in New Study

Drinking any type of alcohol can contribute to cancers of the mouth and throat, larynx (voice box), esophagus, colon and rectum, liver, and breast (in women), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A new study confirms that even light to moderate consumption of alcohol on a regular basis can increase cancer risk. In the study from researchers in Japan, published early online in CANCER, [1] a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the overall cancer risk is at its lowest point when there is no alcohol consumption.

Overall, the study’s authors said risk for cancer was 18 percent higher among current and former drinkers.

Researchers looked at data from 2005 to 2016 from 33 hospitals throughout Japan. The team examined clinical data on 63,232 patients with cancer and 63,232 with no cancer — matched for sex, age, hospital admission date, and admitting hospital. All participants reported their average daily amount of alcohol consumed, and the duration of drinking.

There was nearly a direct association between cancer risk and alcohol consumption, researchers concluded. The association suggested that a light level of drinking — for example, one drink per day for 10 years or two drinks per day for five years — would increase overall cancer risk by at least 5 percent. Those who drank two or fewer drinks per day had a higher cancer risk, no matter how long they had consumed alcohol, up to 18 percent.

Previous research has found an increase in cancer risk from drinking, particularly breast, head and neck, and liver cancers. The authors of this study said their findings are the first to focus on people living in Japan.

The CDC says the less alcohol you drink, the lower the risk of cancer. “All types of alcoholic drinks, including red and white wine, beer, cocktails, and liquor, are linked with cancer,” the CDC states. “The more you drink, the higher your cancer risk.”

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The Flu Season Hasn’t Started This Early in 15 Years, CDC Says

About 900 flu-related deaths have been reported nationwide, representing one of the earliest starts to the flu season in 15 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In its most recent update [4] on the current 2019-2020 flu season, the CDC estimates that more than 1.7 million people have been infected thus far, with at least 12 states reporting an increase in hospital visits.

The U.S. flu season usually peaks anytime between December and March, and can extend as far as May. Over the past three decades, the flu season has most often peaked in February. But the CDC projects that there’s a 40 percent chance the flu will peak in December this season, based on statistics so far.

Another unique aspect of this flu season is the dominant strain so far. The CDC says that the flu season has been primarily driven by an influenza B strain. There are four types of influenza virus: influenza A, B, C, and D. Types A and B are responsible for the flu epidemics that spread across the U.S. every winter. Influenza B generally tends to cause a milder form of the flu, compared to strain A.

Nationally this flu season so far, influenza B strains are the most commonly reported viruses among children up to four years of age (46 percent of reported viruses) and people 5 to 24 years of age (60 percent of reported viruses), according to the CDC. Influenza A viruses are the most commonly reported viruses among persons 65 years of age and older (54 percent of reported viruses).

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Fit Women Who Exercise have Lower Risk of Dying from Cancer, Heart Disease, Study Finds

Many studies have confirmed the benefits of regular exercise in combating chronic conditions and diminishing the risk of early death from heart disease, cancer and other causes. A new study is considered important because it’s one of the few studies that focus only on exercise benefits for women.

The new study finds that women who are very fit have a much lower risk of dying from heart disease, cancer and other common causes, compared to women who are less active.

Researchers in Spain found that women who did not have the ability to exercise regularly were nearly four times more likely to die from heart disease. The study was presented at EuroEcho 2019, the annual meeting of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging.

The fittest women in the study were able to accomplish the equivalent of “walking up four flights of stairs in about 45 seconds, or walking up three flights very fast,” said the study’s lead author Jesus Peteiro, M.D., a cardiologist at the University Hospital A Coruna in Spain.

Researchers reviewed data on 4,714 adult women, with an average age of 64, who had been referred for a heart disease test that involves working out on a treadmill. The women walked, or ran if they could, with increasing intensity until they couldn’t walk or run any longer.

The annual rate of death from heart disease was almost four times higher in the women who did not exercise, compared to those who were fit from regular exercise. The annual rate of cancer deaths among women deemed unfit, or with poor exercise tolerance, was double that of the women who were fit and exercised regularly.

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