Opinion. Social Media is currently full of ‘Dry January’ articles and of course many charities will benefit as people will be motivated if they are abstaining from alcohol for a good cause. Nothing wrong with that and no doubt some individuals will also see it as a way to cut down or at least lessen the effects of a very wet December! I’ve never been a big drinker but I do like the odd beer now and then. When I was diagnosed with metastatic Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs), I hadn’t really thought much about how this might affect my body. It wasn’t until I studied a bit more about my disease and the consequences of my treatment, that I decided I would cut right down. This turned out to be a pretty drastic cut as I can count the number of alcoholic drinks I consumed in the past year on one hand. So what’s the deal with alcohol and Neuroendocrine Cancer? There are some who might say that any alcohol is not good for any cancer patient. However, if your digestive system and your liver have been compromised by both disease and treatment, then is it perhaps best not to ‘stoke the beast’? In fact, there are specific references to alcohol and its potential effect on a Neuroendocrine Cancer patient, particularly those who suffer from the syndromes associated with Neuroendocrine Cancer, e.g. Carcinoid Syndrome. Alcohol is frequently mentioned as a trigger for Carcinoid Syndrome symptoms particularly flushing and this is possibly due to the levels of ‘syndrome triggering amines’ that it contains. It is in fact one of the 5 E’s using its synonym of ‘Ethanol’. Many of us do feel a warm sensation in our faces (and beyond) when we drink alcohol as it can dilate blood vessels. On the basis that some will react worse than others (…flush), then you can see why alcohol can be a trigger for flushing. However, despite other reasons existing for alcohol related flushing, these triggers can often be important clues in diagnosing carcinoid syndrome. Alcohol is second only to large meals in the list of foodstuffs reported to provoke reactions according references here. But the odd beer does not make me flush? I guess I’m lucky in that respect as I have read stories from people who cannot tolerate a single drop! But there is another reason why I will not be rushing down to the pub to ‘sink a few’ and I guess this could apply to anyone who has a compromised system. Food in your diet (and this includes alcohol) must be digested before being absorbed by your cells. The problem with alcohol however, is that it flows directly through your body’s membranes into your bloodstream and your bloodstream carries alcohol to every organ in your body. I don’t really want to add too much fuel to the smouldering remains of my body. There is emerging scientific evidence linking alcohol to certain cancers – read more here in this excellent article from Cancer Research UK. However, like anything in life, you can assess and then manage and mitigate the risks associated with an activity. Things that can be potentially harmful in large amounts can still be enjoyable with disciplined moderation. So, I will still be maintaining my very conservative alcohol regime but I doubt I will ever hit double figure beers in a single year. A beer is now a very special treat at Birthdays, New Year, ‘Cancerversaries‘ and special holidays …….a reminder that I still live.
(so called) Carcinoid Crisis is one thing that tends to raise concerns in patients and has been bubbling away in NET centres and in patient