Thursday, February 26, 2009

On Aspirin, Booze, Women and Men

Remember when those studies first came out which recommended taking small amounts of aspirin to prevent heart attacks? The early studies were all done on men but the results were usually generalized to apply to everybody though some reports did note that the studies had not actually looked at women.

Fast forward to today and the new study about alcohol and women. Here's how its findings are explained:

For years, many women have been buoyed by the news about one of life's guilty pleasures: That nightly glass of wine may not only take the edge off a day but also improve their health. Now it turns out that sipping pinot noir might not be such a good idea after all.

A new study involving nearly 1.3 million middle-aged British women -- the largest ever to examine alcohol and cancer in women -- found that just one glass of chardonnay, a single beer or any other type of alcoholic drink per day increases the risk of a variety of cancers.


"No one study is ever sufficient to make a recommendation," said Linda Van Horn, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University who is chairing the committee revising the guidelines. "But it will be added to the body of literature that will be reviewed."

In the meantime, several experts said women should consult with their doctors about whether they should drink.

Perhaps we have now learned not to generalize studies beyond their subject group? But I think we also regard studies about men as applying to humans and studies about women as applying to women. Hence this study is not seen as giving men any kinds of warnings about alcohol.

Indeed, I spot something rather different in those opening lines I quote above, something which suggests that alcohol is not a general health question but one only for women, and the picture the Washington Post chose to go with the article reinforces that idea. This could be because I'm a feminazi, always seeing nastiness behind perfectly innocent health commentaries. But somehow I get the 'gotcha' feeling from those first sentences.