We’re young. Everyone drinks, right? WRONG.
Earlier this month, we read supplemental reading 6 which was about drinking at a young age. Personally, I was very intrigued when I saw that drinking at a young age could potentially increase the risk of breast cancer for women. As someone who knows survivors, those who have lost their battle, and considering it is breast cancer awareness month, I decided to take a deeper look into this particular topic.
Research from the reading was based on a study published online by The Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers found that, on average, young women who regularly consume alcohol before their first pregnancy may be increasing their risk for breast cancer. The research also found that consumption of alcohol while young increased noncancerous breast abnormalities that too, raised the risk of breast cancer. The association between the amount of alcohol consumed was directly related to the percentage of females who obtained breast cancer or breast abnormalities.
After learning some statistics that proved the correlation between early drinking and breast cancer or abnormalities, I wanted to know why it occurred. Further research conducted by the same study showed that the breast tissue of women who have not yet been pregnant is more susceptible to carcinogens. A carcinogen is a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue.
So, if this correlation is actually accurate, why don’t we as students hear about it more often? Why is it not one of the many debates for reasons not to drink at a young age? I really started to question how much truth was in the study so naturally, I went to the internet. I looked up “drinking and how it relates to breast cancer”. I was surprised by how much supporting evidence popped up. It wasn’t just sites that had been created by a biased individual against drinking. There were numerous credible sources at the top of the page.
After learning about this, in my opinion, quite scary information, I began to worry about my fellow peers. Even if they are of legal drinking age, I know that many individuals take it too far. There is a lot of pressure for young women to “keep up with the boys” while drinking. Another factor that is often not considered is the fact that many young men choose beer as their choice of drink, whereas young women tend to prefer the higher concentrated liquor. For example, in my home state of Iowa (that’s the corn state in the Midwest and not the potato state in the West), there was huge publicity covering the story of a young women nicknamed “Vodka Sam”. The story even got national news coverage.
Vodka Sam was extremely intoxicated at an Iowa Hawkeyes football game a few years ago when she decided to run onto the field. Keep in mind that at this time, the University of Iowa was the number one party school in the country. Undoubtedly, she was taken down, arrested, and taken to jail. She blew a .341, which is well over the legal limit, but was proud of it.
Her Twitter feed showed her clear enthusiasm. I was a senior in high school when this happened and I remember everyone thinking she was so funny. She was considered a legend. I can’t believe we thought it was cool. Unfortunately, that is the type of culture we are immersed in during young adolescence and young adulthood. And unfortunately for her, she is at a greater risk for breast cancer and abnormalities, something I’m sure she was unaware of.
Its not just the United States that produces this culture, either. For instance, in Denmark, up to 62% of all boys and 54% of all girls between 11 and 15 years of age had five or more drinks in one day at least once in the month preceding a survey. Many European countries actively promote the introduction of alcohol at a young age. Wine is often offered during the nightly meal, making alcohol not only easily accessible, but also an extremely common choice of drink. Something else that Denmark in particular provides, is a lower drinking age. The national legal minimum age for on-premise sales of alcoholic beverages is 18 and the national legal minimum age of off-premise sales of alcoholic beverages is 16, 18, and 18 for beer, wine, and spirits, respectively.