VANCOUVER — A top substance use expert said he’s shocked to see the Canadian Cancer Society is accepting money from a wine event fundraiser, because alcohol is a known carcinogen.
Dr. Tim Stockwell, Director of the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria, told StarMetro the most recent approximate estimate shows there were between 400 and 500 deaths from breast cancer attributable to alcohol consumption in Canada in 2015.
In May, Liberty Wine Merchants will host the ‘Rosé Revival’ in Vancouver, a fundraising event for breast cancer research. Its promotional material prominently features The Canadian Cancer Society name and logo.
Stockwell said it’s wrong to associate a wine party with fighting breast cancer.
“The implicit message is, let’s prevent cancer and let’s drink rosé while we’re doing it,” he said.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society’s website, in 2015 an estimate of 10,700 Canadians were diagnosed with “cancer linked to their alcohol consumption” and “alcohol is one of the top three causes of cancer deaths worldwide.”
The May 7 fundraiser will mark the company’s tenth year of hosting the event. According to its website, Liberty Wine Merchants has raised more than $30,000 for breast cancer research.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s gift acceptance policy says that it accepts money from alcohol producers and sellers, but not from tobacco companies, indoor tanning businesses, or manufacturers of pesticides.
Stockwell is not alone in his concern. Dr. Carolyn Gotay of University of B.C.’s Faculty of Medicine, said she’s alarmed by the event’s connection to breast cancer research. As the Canadian Cancer Society Chair in Cancer Primary Prevention, Gotay receives funding from the Canadian Cancer Society for her research.
Gotay said she doesn’t condemn wine drinkers, and she drinks wine herself. But drinking alcohol is related to seven types of cancers, and even a glass a day increases a person’s risk of breast cancer.
“For some cancers such as breast cancer, there really is no safe amount of alcohol that is compatible with preventing breast cancer,” she said.
According to the Susan G. Komen breast cancer research non-profit, some research suggests low alcohol consumption by healthy adults can reduce the risk of heart disease, drinking more than one alcoholic beverage per day for women, and more than two for men, has no health benefits and can cause breast cancer. But a pooled analysis of 53 studies found that the relative risk of breast cancer increased by about 7 per cent for each alcoholic beverage consumed per day.
When Gotay travels on behalf of the Canadian Cancer Society, she’s not allowed to buy alcohol with money from the food budget. If she wants a glass of wine, she pays for it with her own money.
“A fundraiser that relies on alcohol sales to support the Cancer society is too incompatible,” she said.
But she doesn’t condemn the efforts of anyone behind the fundraiser.
“I know that people are good natured and trying to do something to help the organization,” she said.
Alex Wade, office manager at Liberty Wine Merchants and one of the event organizers, said the company hosts several charity fundraisers each year, and supports breast cancer because the wife of one of the managers is a survivor of breast cancer.
“We wanted to support in whatever way we could,” she said. “We put on the event, we run everything ourselves, and then we just hand over the money in the end.”
Shawna Dash, co-ordinator of annual giving at Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon Division, said the event is not a partnership, and Rosé Revival is an independent fundraiser.
“When it comes to alcohol consumption, we believe in moderation, the less alcohol you drink the more you reduce your risk of cancer,” she said.
“If there’s ever something that’s a known carcinogen, we wouldn’t do that, it’s all in the gift acceptance policy,” Dash said.
While she didn’t know of any changes to the policy coming down the pipes, she said “with any smart business you do have to adapt with the research.”