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OP-ED: Alcohol can give you cancer, stop drinking!

By Joel Herzfeld
On February 14, 2006

So apparently, alcohol can give you cancer. According to Reuters, a report conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer found that the more alcohol you consume, the greater your risk for cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon and breast. Drinking may also have a connection to pancreatic and lung cancers.I know what you're thinking. So do we all just quit drinking forever? I mean, people still smoke cigarettes, right? Don't those still give you cancer? What now?

I'll tell you what's now. Nobody cares. That's what's now.

I surveyed 130 random Brandeis students to find out if they were likely to decrease their alcohol consumption in light of the fact that it might give them cancer. Of the people who drank somewhat regularly, only 17 percent said they'd cut down. The other 83 percent said they'd take their chances with the alcohol. "Everything gives you cancer these days" was the overwhelming rationalization, closely followed by "So you quit drinking and get hit by a car the next day."

Although most of the 83 percent actually stopped to think about it for a moment before admitting that cancer doesn't scare them any more than cirrhosis of the liver or alcohol poisoning or dead brain cells, some of them were just inane, perhaps as a result of too many dead brain cells.

"I wanna die," said Amanda Millet-Sorsa '09, "I call the pancreas!"

"I'm likely to increase [consumption]," said Eddie Myers '08.

Emilio Mendoza '09 said, "I don't give a crap anymore."

Don't you people get it? Sixty years from now when we're all in wheelchairs and diapers, the teetotaler minority and I are going to laugh at your sorry dead backsides and those of you who are still alive are going to wonder, as you gaze at your own pickled livers in glass jars beside you from under the sheets of your comatose-ward blankets, why you didn't drink less alcohol in college.

I wonder if it would be any different if, instead of people dying from cancer and cirrhosis and alcohol poisoning and drunk driving and so on, a guy went from party to party with a shotgun at random intervals throughout the year and blew the would-be alcohol victims away. Eliminate the waiting period between alcohol and death and replace it with immediate, gruesome carnage. Would people be less inclined to drink then?

I think so. The whole drinking culture is centered around an instant-gratification ideal of having fun. The future is distant and therefore easily ignored. As is the case with very small children, "out of sight, out of mind." Thus, if we replace the distant prospects of horrible death or illness with instantaneous and somewhat more gory consequences, the drinkers will be more likely to recognize the dangers of what they're doing to themselves and drink less.

Whatever happened to having fun without alcohol, anyway? Remember Frisbees and parks and Twister and malls and just plain hanging out? Since when do you need a can of beer in your hand to chill with the guys? Even the ancient Greeks, arguably the greatest civilization of partiers and revelers ever to stagger across the face of the earth, mixed their wine with water so as not to fry their brains.

But hey, why should I care? I mean, it's not like your senseless imbibing of yeast excrement is killing my brain cells, right? I'm not the one who's going to end up with a cancerous larynx.

As for the rest of you-the teetotalers and reasonable drinkers and the 17 percent of Brandeis drinkers that actually care about their health-give yourselves a pat on the back. You are all sensible, practical members of society.


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