Is drinking increasing your risk of cancer?

A study published in the British Medical Journal has revealed that even those drinking only one or two alcoholic drinks per day could be increasing their risk of cancer.

The American study of 100,000 adults flags the greatest risk being to women, who increase their risk of breast cancer by drinking just one alcoholic drink per day, whilst men who smoke or are ex-smokers put themselves at more risk when drinking than does a non-smoker.

Which cancers are associated with alcohol use?

  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • Gullet
  • Bowel
  • Liver
  • Breast

What is the NHS’ recommended daily intake of alcohol?

  • Men – 3-4 units or two cans of 4.5% lager;
  • Women – 2-3 units or two glasses of 12% wine.

The advice is not that everyone must stop drinking or face the risks associated with cancer, but the theme running through the message is that any attempts to reduce your daily intake of alcohol will reduce your risk of developing the disease. Ways to do this could be through alcohol-free days during the week or replacing every other drink on a night out with a soft alternative.

Medical bodies in the UK are keen to stress that low to moderate drinking poses a small risk of developing cancer, but that the public should be educated on risks and make changes to ensure that they keep to the recommended guidelines.

Dr Richard Roope of the Royal College of GP’s said “GPs do not want to be killjoys – but we want our patients to live long and healthy lives, and lifestyle habits, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, are very real risk factors in developing cancer that can’t be ignored”.

But some feel that studies and announcement like that in the BMJ are not sufficient to inform consumers and deter unsafe drinking. Consumers often make decision about drinking “in the moment”, and efforts need to be put into helping drinkers focus their minds on the risks before they pour the drink.

Alcohol Health Alliance UK has called for better labelling of alcoholic drinks, warning of the risks of drinking and allowing drinkers to make an informed choice in respect of their health. “We all have a right to know what we are putting into our bodies”, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said on behalf of the Alliance, “at the minute, consumers are bring denied this right”.

If you or anyone you know has been affected by cancer and has concerns about their treatment and diagnosis, please contact one of our specialist medical negligence lawyers on 0800 316 8892.