ISFAR publishes rebuttal to anticancer alcohol guidelines

The International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research (ISFAR) has taken issue with an analysis published online by CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), in which a France-based research team charges that current guidelines for alcohol consumption are inadequate for cancer prevention and that new international guidelines are needed (

“If the paper was referred to as an ‘editorial' or ‘comments,' the authors [of the CMAJ paper] would obviously be free to advise whatever drinking guidelines they wish,” wrote the ISFAR representatives in their critique ( of the French group's report. “But this paper appears in a reputable journal, and the article is labeled ‘Analysis,' yet does not reflect current sound scientific data.”

ISFAR—which was established in 2010 as a joint undertaking of the Institute on Lifestyle & Health of Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts and Alcohol in Moderation of the United Kingdom—consists of an international group of medical specialists, epidemiologists, basic scientists, psychologists, and others who are focused on analysis regarding alcohol and health ( According to the new critique, ISFAR reviewers were unanimous in criticizing the French document for allegedly “using selected (and often erroneous) scientific data supporting their conclusions,” and offered examples of the disputed points.

The ISFAR representatives do note that some of the arguments made by Dr. Paule Latino-Martel and associates have merit, but mostly seen in the context of heavy drinking. According to ISFAR, the French analysts have not properly acknowledged scientific data on the protective effects of moderate alcohol consumption. In addition, “The paper fails to point out the importance of associated smoking in the risk of upper aerodigestive cancers,” states the ISFAR critique. “In the absence of tobacco smoking there seems to be little or no effect of moderate alcohol consumption on the risk of such cancers.”

Overall, the consensus of the ISFAR members is that decisions regarding drinking habits should be made by individual persons in consultation with their health care providers.

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