Respected academic and alcohol harm reduction advocate Professor Jennie Conner has castigated a Dunedin brewery for using a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) product to raise money for cancer research.
Emerson’s Brewery has this year been selling a limited edition Doris plum sour, Emerson’s PYNK, with a portion of the proceeds from each pint sold going to Breast Cancer Cure (BCC), a charity dedicated to ensuring future generations can live free of breast cancer. Emerson’s Brewery will also be the venue for its August Fashion for a Cure Dunedin event, a fundraiser featuring 12 designers and a speech from a breast cancer researcher.
Alcohol Action New Zealand spokeswoman and former University of Otago chair in preventive and social medicine Prof Jennie Connor said alcohol was unequivocally linked to breast cancer, which was the leading cause of alcohol-related death for New Zealand women. Alcohol was a known carcinogen which contributed to other forms of the disease, and most alcohol-related cancers affected those who were not heavy drinkers.
While most women who drank would not get breast cancer, on a population level there were more women drinking, and drinking more than they used to, because the alcohol industry had done a good job of getting women to consume more over the past few decades, Prof Connor said. Ultimately the goal of Emerson’s was to sell more alcohol, and its engagement with charity was about putting a good face on its business. It undermined the credibility of BCC as a cancer research charity by holding having the Fashion for a Cure Dunedin event in a pub and the relationship between alcohol companies and cancer research also risked compromising the cancer researchers themselves, Prof Connor said. “I think [BCC] should be embarrassed.”
BCC chief executive Sonja de Mari said “Breast cancer was a complex disease with many risk factors, including alcohol consumption, and BCC supported low to moderate alcohol consumption in line with government guidelines”. The Cancer Foundation however on its website notes that “There is no amount of alcohol that is ‘safe’. Drinking even small amounts of alcohol regularly can cause cancer. For example, breast cancer in women increases by around 7-10 percent per standard drink per day. The more alcohol, the higher the chance of developing cancers. To protect against alcohol-related cancer risk, it’s best not to drink alcohol.”