OBJECTIVES: To determine the effects of low-to-moderate levels of maternal alcohol consumption in pregnancy on pregnancy and longer-term offspring outcomes.

SEARCH STRATEGY: Medline, Embase, Web of Science and Psych info from inception to 11 July 2016.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Prospective observational studies, negative control and quasi experimental studies of pregnant women estimating effects of light drinking in pregnancy (</=32 g/week) versus abstaining. Pregnancy outcomes such as birth weight and features of fetal alcohol syndrome were examined.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: One reviewer extracted data and another checked extracted data. Random effects meta-analyses were performed where applicable, and a narrative summary of findings was carried out otherwise.

MAIN RESULTS: 24 cohort and two quasi experimental studies were included. With the exception of birth size and gestational age, there was insufficient data to meta-analyse or make robust conclusions. Odds of small for gestational age (SGA) and preterm birth were higher for babies whose mothers consumed up to 32 g/week versus none, but estimates for preterm birth were also compatible with no association: summary OR 1.08, 95% CI (1.02 to 1.14), I2 0%, (seven studies, all estimates were adjusted) OR 1.10, 95% CI (0.95 to 1.28), I2 60%, (nine studies, includes one unadjusted estimates), respectively. The earliest time points of exposure were used in the analysis.

CONCLUSION: Evidence of the effects of drinking </=32 g/week in pregnancy is sparse. As there was some evidence that even light prenatal alcohol consumption is associated with being SGA and preterm delivery, guidance could advise abstention as a precautionary principle but should explain the paucity of evidence.

Published in Pregnant Women

INTRODUCTION: Understanding the concept of a standard drink (SD) is foundational knowledge to many public health policies aimed at reducing alcohol-related harms. These policies include adhering to low-risk drinking guidelines, screening brief intervention and referral activities, and counter alcohol-impaired driving initiatives. A lack of awareness of SDs might preclude the effectiveness of these interventions. A systematic review was conducted to review the evidence about how effective alcohol labels are in communicating SD information to the consumer.

METHODS: A systematic review was conducted to identify peer-reviewed articles and grey literature from relevant indexes from January 1990 to January 2016. Additionally, policy makers and researchers in countries where standard drink labels (SDLs) have been implemented were consulted to help identify relevant literature. The search strategy was focused on the impact of SDLs relative to a range of outcomes, including awareness of SDs, pouring behaviors, and consumption patterns.

RESULTS: Eleven records were eligible for inclusion. The evidence suggests that knowledge of the definition of an SD is low. However, SDLs can help individuals more accurately identify and pour an SD. SDLs need to be supported by educational initiatives to help the consumer understand the SD information provided on the beverage container. To date, there has been no comprehensive evaluation of the impact of SDLs.

CONCLUSIONS: SDLs have the potential to increase awareness of SDs and facilitate the monitoring of personal alcohol consumption in the context of a comprehensive alcohol strategy. However, their impact on drinking behaviors requires further exploration, especially among high-risk populations.

Published in General Health

BACKGROUND: Hazardous and harmful alcohol use and high blood pressure are central risk factors related to premature non-communicable disease (NCD) mortality worldwide. A reduction in the prevalence of both risk factors has been suggested as a route to reach the global NCD targets. This study aims to highlight that screening and interventions for hypertension and hazardous and harmful alcohol use in primary healthcare can contribute substantially to achieving the NCD targets.

METHODS: A consensus conference based on systematic reviews, meta-analyses, clinical guidelines, experimental studies, and statistical modelling which had been presented and discussed in five preparatory meetings, was undertaken. Specifically, we modelled changes in blood pressure distributions and potential lives saved for the five largest European countries if screening and appropriate intervention rates in primary healthcare settings were increased. Recommendations to handle alcohol-induced hypertension in primary healthcare settings were derived at the conference, and their degree of evidence was graded.

RESULTS: Screening and appropriate interventions for hazardous alcohol use and use disorders could lower blood pressure levels, but there is a lack in implementing these measures in European primary healthcare. Recommendations included (1) an increase in screening for hypertension (evidence grade: high), (2) an increase in screening and brief advice on hazardous and harmful drinking for people with newly detected hypertension by physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals (evidence grade: high), (3) the conduct of clinical management of less severe alcohol use disorders for incident people with hypertension in primary healthcare (evidence grade: moderate), and (4) screening for alcohol use in hypertension that is not well controlled (evidence grade: moderate). The first three measures were estimated to result in a decreased hypertension prevalence and hundreds of saved lives annually in the examined countries.

CONCLUSIONS: The implementation of the outlined recommendations could contribute to reducing the burden associated with hypertension and hazardous and harmful alcohol use and thus to achievement of the NCD targets. Implementation should be conducted in controlled settings with evaluation, including, but not limited to, economic evaluation.

Published in General Health

BACKGROUND: Racial disparities in the incidence of major cancers may be attributed to differences in the prevalence of established, modifiable risk factors such as obesity, smoking, physical activity and diet.

METHODS: Data from a prospective cohort of 566,398 adults aged 50-71 years, 19,677 African-American and 450,623 Whites, was analyzed. Baseline data on cancer-related risk factors such as smoking, alcohol, physical activity and dietary patterns were used to create an individual adherence score. Differences in adherence by race, gender and geographic region were assessed using descriptive statistics, and Cox proportional hazards models were used to determine the association between adherence and cancer incidence.

RESULTS: Only 1.5% of study participants were adherent to all five cancer-related risk factor guidelines, with marked race-, gender- and regional differences in adherence overall. Compared with participants who were fully adherent to all five cancer risk factor criteria, those adherent to one or less had a 76% increased risk of any cancer incidence (HR: 1.76, 95% CI: 1.70 - 1.82), 38% increased risk of breast cancer (HR: 1.38, 95% CI: 1.25 - 1.52), and doubled the risk of colorectal cancer (HR: 2.06, 95% CI: 1.84 - 2.29). However, risk of prostate cancer was lower among participants adherent to one or less compared with those who were fully adherent (HR: 0.79, 95% CI: 0.75 - 0.85). The proportion of cancer incident cases attributable to low adherence was higher among African-Americans compared with Whites for all cancers (21% vs. 19%), and highest for colorectal cancer (25%) regardless of race.

CONCLUSION: Racial differences in the proportion of cancer incidence attributable to low adherence suggests unique opportunities for targeted cancer prevention strategies that may help eliminate racial disparities in cancer burden among older US adults.

Published in Cancer
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