European Week Against Cancer to explore alcohol cancer risk

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The link between alcohol and cancer risks is to be explored as part of the European Week Against Cancer which gets underway next week.

It comes after new research revealed that one in 10 of all cancers in men and one in 33 in women are caused by drinking.

The research found that drinking even small amounts increases the risk, though drinking above recommended limits of 24 grams of alcohol a day for men and 12 grams a day for women causes the majority of cancer cases linked to alcohol.

Even former drinkers who have now quit are still at risk of cancer, including of the oesophagus, breast, mouth and bowel, the research, published recently in the British Medical Journal, found.

Alcohol Action Ireland continues its campaign for the introduction of explicit health warnings to be included on alcohol products as a matter of urgency.

Alcohol Action Ireland Director Fiona Ryan said: “Almost one in five people in Ireland are unaware of the link between alcohol and cancer risk.

“Women also suffer disproportionally as the risk of breast cancer in women increases the more alcohol she drinks.

“Many women do not know that drinking one standard alcoholic drink a day is associated with a 9% increase in the risk of developing breast cancer, while 3 to 6 drinks a day increases the risk by as much as 41%.

“The introduction of labelling on alcohol products carrying health warnings, as well as a full list of ingredients and the number of alcohol units in the product, will equip all consumers with essential information about the dangers associated with alcohol use before they drink.”

Such a move has popular support.   The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) carried out a survey of more than 1,000 people in 2009 on attitudes and behaviours to food and drink labelling, including health warnings on alcohol.

The vast majority (81%) want health advice regarding the consumption of alcohol labelled on alcoholic products.

Organised by the Association of European Cancer Leagues, European Week Against Cancer takes place May 25-31.