29 June 2016

Risk of Cancer for All Drinkers, Not Just for Those with Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction

is a major problem here in the UK. To tackle the issue, the government took the decision in January 2016 to reduce the existing recommended alcohol guidelines for men from twenty-one units per week to fourteen, thus bringing it in line with the current limit for women. This came with a stark warning that those drinking over the recommended alcohol guideline amounts could be putting their health at risk.Public Health England undertook the review into the existing alcohol guidelines on behalf of the government, and it was found that there is actually no safe level of alcohol consumption that can prevent certain illnesses, including some forms of cancer.

Moderate Drinking

For many years, people have been under the impression that drinking below the guideline amounts was safe and that it would prevent various illnesses. However, a new study has revealed that even moderate drinking could be harmful to health. Even those who drink less than two alcoholic drinks a day are increasing their risk of developing cancers such as breast and bowel cancer. Alcohol consumption is directly linked to another five cancers – liver, mouth, oesophagus, larynx, and pharynx.

Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand have found that in 2012 alone in that country, 236 people under the age of eighty died from alcohol-related cancer.

Professor Jennie Connor, the lead author of the study, said, “About 60 per cent of all alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in New Zealand women is from breast cancer. We estimated 71 breast cancer deaths in 2007, and 65 in 2012 were due to drinking, and about a third of these were associated with drinking less than two drinks a day on average.”

She added that the risk of cancer increases for those with alcohol addiction, but said that ‘many alcohol-related breast cancers occur in women who are drinking at levels that are currently considered acceptable’.


Professor Connor pointed out that there was little difference between the sexes in terms of the number of cancer deaths caused by alcohol. Despite the fact that men tend to be heavier drinkers than women, the greater number of deaths attributed to breast cancer in women balanced the numbers. Professor Connor said that there were an average 10.4 years of life lost per person affected by alcohol-related cancer. The loss of life was higher among breast cancer sufferers than those affected by other cancers.

She said that while alcohol-related cancer deaths are responsible for just 4.2 per cent of all cancer deaths in those under eighty years of age, they are significant because they are avoidable. She added, “Individual decisions to reduce alcohol consumption will reduce risk in those people.”

She pointed out that if the general population were to reduce its alcohol consumption, the number of cancer-related deaths would decrease, and there would also be a number of other health benefits. She added, “Our findings strongly support the use of population-level strategies to reduce consumption because, apart from the heaviest drinkers, people likely to develop cancer from their exposure to alcohol cannot be identified, and there is no level of drinking under which an increased risk of cancer can be avoided.”

Understanding the Risk

Here in the UK, there are concerns that many people just do not understand the risk involved with alcohol consumption. While many individuals are of the opinion that health risks relating to alcohol only affect those with an alcohol addiction, the reality is that there simply is no level of alcohol consumption that can prevent certain illnesses from developing.

Health experts in the United Kingdom are warning that more needs to be done to educate the public about the dangers of alcohol, especially as a recent report found that many people are continuing to drink well over the current guideline amounts. Some are drinking up to fourteen units of alcohol in one drinking session.

The Dangers of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Those who drink heavily are risking both their physical and mental health. With hundreds of illnesses linked to alcohol, including cancer, liver disease, obesity, heart disease, depression and anxiety disorder, alcohol is placing a huge burden on the economy.

There is also the risk of addiction in those who continue to abuse alcohol. The more alcohol a person consumes, the greater the risk of them becoming tolerant to the effects. This means that they will need to drink alcohol in greater amounts or more frequently to get the desired effects.

Once a person becomes physically dependent on alcohol, he or she will suffer withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. When this happens, the individual will drink even though doing so causes negative consequences. Alcohol addiction is a treatable illness, but it is not easy to overcome. It requires professional help from qualified counsellors and therapists.

The fear of addiction may not be enough to stop some from drinking alcohol; however, with the news that even moderate drinking can raise the risk of certain cancers, hopefully more people will think carefully about their levels of consumption.


  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3662811/Drinking-alcohol-DOES-increase-chance-cancer-moderate-drinkers-greater-risk.html

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