Alcohol and Cancer – do you know the links?
It’s World Cancer Day on February 4th – a day to unite and raise awareness of what the risks are and what you can do to help prevent cancer.
We now have a much better understanding about the relationship between alcohol and cancer. One in three of us will get cancer at some point in our lives and we now know that even drinking 1.5 units of alcohol a day increase the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, bowel and in women, breast. Drinking 6 units a day increases the risk of liver and pancreatic cancer.
This is because the carcinogenic nature of alcohol (be it wine, beer, spirits or cider) causes damage to cells, making them more likely to become cancerous. The more you drink, the greater the risk:
- Women regularly drinking 2 units a day increase the risk of breast cancer by 16%
- Women regularly drinking 5 units a day increase the risk of breast cancer by 40%
- Men regularly drinking 2 units a day increase the risk of liver cirrhosis by 57%
- Men regularly drinking 5 units a day increase the risk of liver cirrhosis by 207%
Source: Alcohol Guidelines Review: Report from Guidelines Review Group to the UK Chief Medical Officers (2016)
Did you know that alcohol could cause cancer in the same way as smoking? Alcohol is a Group 1 carcinogen and causes around 12,500 cases of cancer each year. However scary this sounds, its important to remember you can cut the risk considerably by just sticking to the recommended lower risk guidelines.
It’s uncomfortable reading but alcohol increases your risk of seven different cancers and the more you drink, and the more often you drink, the greater the risk. You don’t need to be a heavy drinker to be at risk. Regularly drinking a pint of premium lager or a large glass of wine (both are around 3 units) a day can increase the risk.
There are seven types of cancers that we know are linked to alcohol:
- Mouth cancer
- Pharyngeal cancer (upper throat)
- Oesophageal cancer (food pipe)
- Laryngeal cancer (voice box)
- Breast cancer
- Bowel cancer
- Liver cancer
However, the more you cut down on alcohol, the more you reduce the risk of cancer. The lower risk guidelines recommend no more 14 units per week –spread out over three days or more.
Do your bit to promote #WorldCancerDay and keep your drinking low.