One in 10 of all cancers in men caused by alcohol

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New research shows that drinking more than a pint of beer or a glass of wine a day can substantially increase the risk of some cancers.

One in 10 of all cancers in men and one in 33 in women across Western Europe are caused by drinking, according to new research published recently by the British Medical Journal.

The authors, from universities and hospitals across Europe, said: “Our data show that many cancer cases could have been avoided if alcohol consumption is limited to two alcoholic drinks per day in men and one alcoholic drink per day in women, which are the recommendations of many health organisations.

“And even more cancer cases would be prevented if people reduced their alcohol intake to below recommended guidelines or stopped drinking alcohol at all.”

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, the reports’ authors said.

The research also found that even former drinkers who have now quit are still at risk of cancer, including of the oesophagus, breast, mouth and bowel.

The study involved data from France, Italy, Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, Greece, Germany and Denmark.

The research is part of the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC), one of the largest-ever studies into the links between diet and cancer.

Alcohol Action Ireland expressed concern about the fact that many people in Ireland are unaware of the link between alcohol and cancer risk.

Fiona Ryan, director of Alcohol Action Ireland said: “Ireland has the second highest cancer rate in the world, yet almost one in five of us do not believe there is a connection between the two.

“Consumers have the right to be made aware of the links between alcohol use and the risks to health.

“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.

“The Government should seize the opportunity and act on overdue legislation to put information/health warning labels on all packaged alcohol.”

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.

To see the full report,   click here