The professor of medical oncology at the University of Milan and director of the New Drugs Division at the European Institute of Oncology: I too drink in great moderation. Alcohol-smoking interaction is dangerous
Professor Curigliano, do you drink wine?
Very sparingly, it happens to me once in a while, at dinner with friends. Not at the table on average. Because I have a personal culture that leads me not to drink or smoke. And then I’m conditioned by the studies I’ve done, by the work I do….
Joseph Curigliano professor of medical oncology at the University of Milan and director of the New Drugs Division at the European Institute of Oncology. Ireland’s choice (approved by the European Commission) to equate cigarettes to alcohol and to write health risks on the label of alcohol has become a political dispute. And the support of professor and immunologist Antonella Viola (University of Padua) has put more wood on the fire of the controversy.
Has Professor Curigliano read about this wine challenge between virologists, immunologists, infectious disease specialists?
Something came to me, yes. But I don’t want to be a part of it. I’m glad I’m out.
But we can do some ‘clarity. For example on the link between wine and cancer.
Not between wine and cancer but between alcohol and cancer. Let’s start with a certain fact: carcinogenic alcohol, so wine is too. There is a report by the World Health Organization and the National Institute of Health: so-called “population studies” have been carried out and it has been seen that excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages increases the risk of developing cancer. Let’s not talk about hypotheses, there is clear evidence.
What are the most frequent cancers associated with alcohol?
All those in the head and neck area, for example the one in the oral cavity. So much so that the first thing we ask those patients if they drink or smoke. Then the oesophageal tumors, those of the liver, of the breast, of the colon… The interaction between smoking and alcohol is obviously important. But we never talk about just one factor: the multifactorial process of carcinogenesis.
What is meant by overconsumption?
Americans write guidelines every year (which also apply to us) with recommendations on what to consume in moderation. Regarding alcohol, the recommendation is not to drink; but if one drinks the indication (they talk about drinks) one glass a day for women, less than two for men.
They talk about drinks, in fact. Spirits. On the other hand, what do you think is the modest quantity of wine that can be drunk without too much risk?
I repeat: carcinogenic alcohol. I am an oncologist, so to be clear: to my patients who ask if they can drink wine I say not to but if they really want to drink I recommend very moderate quantities. Maximum two glasses a day for a man and one for women.
Would you agree on the serious harm to health to write on wine labels?
If we put it on cigarettes why not wine or spirits? I am concerned about the excessive alcohol consumption of adolescents. I don’t know if that’s the right wording, but I think a warning about the damage that alcohol can cause is right.
Is this the story that drinkers have smaller brains?
a somewhat strong simplification. However, there is a study on the subject. It was published in Nature Communications in March 2022 and by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, performed on a sample of over 36,000 people. They found that alcohol consumption associated with a reduction in total brain volume.
So is Professor Viola right when she talks about the smaller brain for those who drink?
The study I mentioned says that the reduction in brain volume (especially of gray matter) associated with alcohol consumption but also with other things such as cardiovascular disease, chronic cerebral ischemia, body weight, smoking… To put it in simple words: the brain becomes smaller because less oxygen and less blood reaches it. But once again we are talking about multifactorial, not just one factor.
If you had to choose what to throw off the famous tower between smoke and alcohol? I would choose smoking. perhaps more dramatic from the point of view of the addiction it develops, more direct and faster in causing damage. But sure a good fight, eh….
When did you have your first glass of wine?
At the university. Until I was 18 I never got close to it.
Ever been drunk?
But let alone!.
January 24, 2023 (change January 24, 2023 | 08:15)
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