Alcohol Awareness Week – Alcohol & Cancer

Alcohol, do we know the facts?

Every day we see the impact of hazardous, dangerous and dependent alcohol consumption – we see lives severely affected by addiction, its health and social impacts and the devastating harm it causes to families and relationships.  However, we work in services to change this.

Educating people on the dangers of hazardous alcohol consumption can make a big difference and help stop lives being blighted by addiction.  This week is Alcohol Awareness Week, with the particular theme of alcohol and its relation to health.  Each day we will be sharing facts and information about alcohol and its influencing role in many health issues – read on and share and promote these messages.

Alcohol and Cancer

Although the link between alcohol and cancer is well established in research, less than half of the British public are aware of it.

Alcohol is well linked to the development of seven different cancers: mouth, throat, laryngeal, oesophageal, liver, colorectal and breast cancer.  Mouth, throat, laryngeal and oesophageal cancers are the most prevalent, as alcohol directly comes into contact with these areas.

Alcohol contributes to colorectal and liver cancer as it is absorbed into the body via the stomach and intestines before being broken down by the liver.  Enzymes in these organs break down alcohol, but in doing so create compounds that are carcinogenic. Basically, the more alcohol consumed, the more of these carcinogenic compounds are produced. Heavy drinking also leads to cirrhosis of the liver, which increases the risk of liver cancer.

Alcohol consumption also increases the levels of the female hormone oestrogen, with this increased level of oestrogen contributing to cell mutation, which can cause breast cancer.

Stats

  • Worldwide, 20% of alcohol-related deaths are caused by cancer, and in the UK, 4% of cancers are caused by alcohol
  • Drinking 6 units or more a day can increase the risk of these cancers by 5 times
  • Even drinking just 1.5 units a day can increase the risk by 20%
  • Stopping drinking reduces the risk of these cancers by 2% per abstinent year
  • Drinking 4 drinks or more a day can increase the risk of bowel cancer by 50%
  • Consuming 3 units of alcohol a day increases the risk of liver cancer by 20%; 6 units a day increases the risk by 40%; and 12 units a day increases the risk by 80%

Raising Awareness

It is clear that alcohol consumption contributes to the development of cancer in a number of ways, and is thus, one of the most preventable causes of cancer. However, the link between alcohol and cancer is scarcely acknowledged amongst the British public, and the dangers highly disregarded. One of the best ways to reduce the risk of many cancers is to limit alcohol consumption.

As a charity dealing with these issues every day, we are the experts by experience – we see the results of alcohol dependence, but importantly, work to rectify them.  We should continue to raise awareness of the dangers of hazardous alcohol consumption, preventing addiction and ensuring people are aware of the risks.

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