Date Published: 8 April 2011

Cancer Research UK concern about consumption of alcohol

According to a recent report published in the British Medical Journal, alcohol causes at least 13,000 cases of cancer a year in the UK.

Cancer Research UK-funded researchers indicated that alcohol has a significant effect on cancers of the mouth, food-pipe, voice-box and pharynx. Specifically, they attributed 6,000 of these cancers to alcohol-drinking related causes. Cancer Research UK also state that consumption of alcohol is a factor in more than 3,000 colorectal cancers and about 2,500 breast cancers per year.

Researchers investigated how different levels of drinking affect the risk of cancer, and combined them with figures about how much British people drink. The research is part of ongoing work by the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) ? a Cancer Research UK co-funded study and one of the largest studies into the links between diet and cancer.

Alcohol is said to increase the risk of several types of the disease including mouth, throat, bowel, liver and breast cancers. When alcohol is broken down by the body it produces a chemical which can damage DNA, increasing the chance of developing cancer. However, the cancer risk is said to increase with every drink, implying that even moderate amounts of alcohol - such as a small drink each day - would increase the risk of these cancers.

Naomi Allen, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist based at Oxford University, who works on the EPIC study, said:

" This research supports existing evidence that alcohol causes cancer and that the risk increases even with drinking moderate amounts.
_The results from this study reflect the impact of people's drinking habits about ten years ago. People are drinking even more now than then and this could lead to more people developing cancer because of alcohol in the future.

Government figures from the (UK) Office of National Statistics show that an increasing number of women are drinking high amounts of alcohol, far exceeding the recommended upper-limit for a week.

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said:

" Many people just don't know that drinking alcohol can increase their cancer risk.
_In the last ten years, mouth cancer has become much more common and one reason for this could be because of higher levels of drinking ? as this study reflects.
_Along with being a non-smoker and keeping a healthy bodyweight, cutting back on alcohol is one of the most important ways of lowering your cancer risk.
_Keeping alcohol intake to a maximum of one small drink a day for women and two small drinks per day for men can have a real impact.


Reference to Paper:
Schütze M et al (2011), Alcohol attributable burden of incidence of cancer in eight European countries based on results from prospective cohort study BMJ, 342:(d1584) : 10.1136/bmj.d1584

Source: Cancer Research UK (Press Release)

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