Alcohol and Cancer
‘Moderate alcohol consumption - two drinks of alcohol (10g) per day does not increase the risk of cancer in general. However, four drinks per day increases the risk of cancer by 22%. High alcohol consumption (8 daily drinks) increases the risk of cancer at any site by 90%.
Evidence is clear, that alcohol is carcinogenic for some types of cancer, and that the risk is dose dependent.’
'Alcohol As A Cause Of Cancer'. The Australian Cancer Institute 2008
Perhaps no illness is more feared in the developed world than cancer as few direct causes have been identified, with the exception of cigarette smoking. However, research is increasingly showing that obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise and heavy alcohol consumption increase our risk of contracting cancers of several kinds.
Scientists don’t know exactly why alcohol may increase the risk of developing some cancers, but research indicates that the following play a part:
However, the diseases where alcohol poses ‘significant risk’ at moderate levels of consumption are rare with the exception of breast cancer and for drinkers who also smoke. The four leading cancers in the UK are prostate, lung, colon and breast cancers (4% female deaths UK). As with most issues regarding alcohol – it is the quantity that is drunk which is important – drinking at meal times is best and avoiding binge drinking.
For example: ‘Alcohol As A Cause Of Cancer’ published by the Australian Cancer Institute in 2008 concluded that moderate alcohol consumption two drinks of alcohol (10g) per day does not increase the risk of cancer in general. However, four drinks per day increases the risk of cancer by 22%. High alcohol consumption (8 daily drinks) increases the risk of cancer at any site by 90%. Evidence is clear, that alcohol is carcinogenic for some types of cancer, and that the risk is dose dependent.
The full 500+ page report is available at: Cancerinstitute.org.au/cancer_inst/publications/pdfs/ pm-2008-03_alcohol-as-a-cause-of-cancer.pdf
Breast Cancer (Click for more information)
Drinking and smoking combined
Smoking and drinking together greatly increases your risk of developing throat and mouth cancer than doing either on their own. That’s because when you drink alcohol it’s easier for the mouth and throat to absorb the chemicals in tobacco that cause cancer.
It’s also true with oesophageal (gullet) cancer. One study found that people who drank up to five units of alcohol and smoked up to eight cigarettes per day could increase their risk of oesophageal cancer between 13 (for men) and 19 times (for women).
Staying in control
The government advises that people should not regularly drink more than the daily unit guidelines of 3-4 units of alcohol for men (equivalent to a pint and a half of 4% beer) and 2-3 units of alcohol for women (equivalent to a 175 ml glass of wine). ‘Regularly’ means drinking every day or most days of the week.
Your GP can help you figure out if you should make any changes in your drinking, and offer help and advice along the way.
For advice on cancer-related issues, visit CancerHelp UK – www.cancerhelp.org.uk – the patient information website of Cancer Research UK. Their helpline operates 9am–5pm, Monday–Friday. Call 020 7061 8355 or freephone 0808 800 4040.