Drinking and cancer: What’s the risk?

Due to quacks like “Foodbabe”, and misunderstandings about organic food, many people have chemophobia – a fear of chemicals. Here is a common meme being spread today.

Tiny amount of glyphosate in wine

Today some people are scared to drink wine or whisky, because of trace amounts of molecules that they have no biological effect, even though they are Ok that the alcohol in wine is classified as a carcinogenic.

There’s no such thing as a molecule that’s always carcinogenic. If that were true all of us would already be dead of cancer.

Most organic molecules – in any food or drink – can be a carcinogen, if ingested over a certain amount, over time. That includes any of the thousands of molecules inside an apple, a peach, a grape, or a grain like corn.

Like toxins, the dose makes the poison. That is why it is safe to consume many things,

Most adults drink alcohol, yet most don’t get cancer from this.

Now, some molecules, if you have them over a certain quantity, over time, do cause damage to genes that control cell growth. That is what one needs to be concerned about. When we see molecules that can do this, we call them carcinogens.

So why aren’t we all dying of cancers caused by them? After all, we know that every day, millions of cells in our body are getting all kinds of minor damage to their genes. Surely some of that damage will be to the wrong gene, making the cell become cancerous? That’s right – this happens – yet at the same time, our cells also respond to such damage. They search it out, and repair it. Also, our immune system looks for such cells, and wipes them out. I won’t get into details here, but all life on Earth has a complex and robust system of DNA repair mechanisms.

As such, we don’t have to worry about a molecule simply because it is labeled a carcinogen. Even organic fruits and vegetables, as well as processed foods, contains hundreds of such molecules. We only need to worry about them if we encounter them over some dose.

For more details you can follow this online tutorial, Tox Tutor: Dose Response Assessmen

It shows that at low doses, most molecules identified as carcinogens don’t do anything

At higher doses they start to have an observable

Over that dose they become extremely dangerous.

The dose depends on the molecule, and the animal that it is in.
(And for some people, also on that person’s individual family genetics)

Linearized Multistage Model extrapolates cancer risk from a dose-response curve NLMSee Tox Tutor: Dose Response Assessment from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.


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