Health Buzz: Alcohol May Increase Cancer Risk

For addiction help, hire a 'sober coach'; tips for overcoming a hangover.

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Study: Alcohol Linked to 10 Percent of Cancers in Men, 3 Percent in Women

New research suggests that alcohol consumption could be linked to cancer. European researchers tracked more than 350,000 people in eight countries for 13 years, and found that overall cancer risk increases with every extra daily drink greater than one a day for women or two a day for men. About 10 percent of cancers in men and 3 percent of cancers in women may be attributable to alcohol, including 5 percent of breast cancer cases, according to findings published last week in the British Medical Journal. Drinking too much alcohol could also account for nearly 45 percent of cancers of the mouth, larynx, and throat in men, and 25 percent of those cancers among women. And the research suggests alcohol leads to 33 percent of liver cancers among men, and 18 percent among women. Exactly how alcohol triggers cancer is unclear, but the researchers say that when alcohol is digested in the body, it's converted into a chemical that damages DNA and prevents cells from repairing themselves, which could play a role. "This is the best data we've got and we're ever likely to get," Karol Sokora, medical director of Cancer Partners UK, told the BBC. "The take-home message is that the more alcohol you drink, some of the common cancers do increase, and that's worrying. So the message has to be 'look at drinking habits, and reduce.'"

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  • For Addiction Help, Hire a 'Sober Coach'

    The call of drugs and alcohol to substance abusers trying to kick their habit never goes silent. For someone who has relapsed repeatedly, a new specialist—the "sober coach"—has emerged. They are paid at least $200 an hour to work one-on-one with recovering addicts, sometimes moving into their homes at more than $1,000 a day to fulfill a 24-7 role. They are motivators and cheerleaders, role models and mentors. They don't sugarcoat their words. And they resort to the unconventional to break a client's addiction cycle.

    A coach might go grocery shopping with his client until that person learns not to stop in the wine aisle. He'll police an alcoholic's morning coffee routine to ensure no rum or brandy is added. And if there's a slipup? "I've used everything from 'Shut up!' to 'Do you want to become a person or remain a dope fiend?' " says Doug Caine, founder and president of Sober Champion, a sober coaching company that has offices in Los Angeles, New York, and London. "I've asked, 'Is smoking crack the best way you can serve your children?' Every client requires a different motivating tool at a different time."

    Tough love is central to sober coaching. "We don't do hand-holding or babysitting jobs," Caine says. "Coaches and clients develop an intense, bonded relationship. If you're not willing to do some work, if you won't go to any lengths to stay clean, you're going to have a tough time benefitting." [Read more: For Addiction Help, Hire a 'Sober Coach'.]

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    • Hangover Cure? Hah. But These Tips May Help

      When it comes to hangovers, everyone has a swear-by-it remedy, from bingeing on cheeseburgers and fries (grease supposedly lines the stomach and slows alcohol absorption) to gulping spiked orange juice or a Bloody Mary (hair of the dog). Hundreds of others are free for the taking online, so why not pick one and get moving the day after you've had a few too many?

      Because "in terms of anything that's proven to, quote, cure a hangover, there isn't anything," says Michael Fingerhood, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. In 2005, researchers scoured studies as far back as the 1950s that addressed preventing or treating hangovers. They unearthed just eight that were worth a closer look, none of which could convincingly demonstrate success for their hangover tricks (such as taking a supplement of prickly-pear cactus or a yeast-vitamin pill), according to the report published in the British Medical Journal. That doesn't mean you have to be miserable all day, though. Experts say some old standbys will at least take the edge off a hangover and end it a little faster: