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Campaign highlights alcohol and cancer risk

Balance alcohol and cancer campaign advert

Balance alcohol and cancer campaign advert

Posted 22/06/15

Almost one million North Easterners are ignoring Government health guidelines and drinking at levels which are putting them at greater risk of seven types of cancer.

Almost 2 in 5 of the region’s adults, around 813,000 people, are regularly drinking more than the recommended daily limits. These are 2-3 units for a woman – no more than a standard 175ml glass of wine – or 3-4 units for a man, which is a pint of strong lager.

Evidence shows that if you regularly drink above the guidelines the risk of developing cancer is higher than non-drinkers.

However, more than 9 in 10 people in the region who regularly drink above the recommended limits believe they are light or moderate drinkers.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “It’s important for people to realise that it’s not just heavy drinkers at risk, there is no safe level of alcohol and the more a person drinks, the greater the risk.

“For many of us, the idea that alcohol can cause cancer is hard to accept. This comes as no surprise as low alcohol pricing, widespread availability and mass promotion has suggested alcohol is harmless. But it’s not.”

These concerning statistics have led Balance to launch a campaign to raise awareness of the link between alcohol and seven cancers including mouth, pharyngeal (upper throat), oesophageal (food pipe), laryngeal (voice box), bowel cancer, breast and liver.

The campaign will see a new hard-hitting advert aired on television screens from today (Monday 22nd June) over a four-week period. The advert features a woman enjoying lunch and a glass of wine with her partner when she spills some of her drink on her top. The stain changes to show a growing tumour on her breast. You can view the film here –

Colin added: “It’s worrying to learn that so many people in the region are drinking above the recommended limits. This is even more of a concern when you consider the fact that a large majority of high or increasing risk drinkers believe they actually drink at moderate levels.

“It’s easy for us underestimate how much we drink but by raising awareness of the hidden harms associated with alcohol we hope encourage people to think about their intake and, if necessary, cut back to help reduce their risk of cancer.”

Mouth cancer survivor Gordon Mullen, from Bellingham, Northumberland, who was first diagnosed in 2008, is backing Balance’s efforts to raise awareness of the risk factors associated with alcohol and cancer.

Gordon, 45, had surgery to remove part of his tongue and gruelling sessions of radiotherapy and chemotherapy following his diagnosis in 2008 and he had to undergo further surgery late last year when the cancer returned.

He said: “My cancer wasn’t directly attributed to alcohol but, having experienced this painful condition, I would do anything in my power to help reduce the chances of it coming back.

“People often think you need to be a smoker or big drinker to get mouth cancer but I was neither of those things, I never smoked and drank socially. I now don’t drink at all. There are so many things that can cause cancer yet so few that we can control - but cutting back on how much we drink is one of them.”

Dr Tony Branson, Medical Director of the Northern England Cancer Network, has supported Balance’s campaign by recording a series of short films explaining how alcohol – which is in the same cancer-causing category as tobacco and asbestos - can cause cancer.

He said: “Alcohol affects our bodies in a number of different ways which can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer. It damages cells, changes hormone levels, impacts on existing medical conditions and worsens the damage caused by smoking.

“Balance’s campaign will help inform the public of these risks so they can then assess their consumption and, if appropriate, take steps to reduce how much they drink. I’m happy to support any measures which have the potential to help reduce the number of avoidable cancers here in the region.”

The campaign sees Balance once again team up with national charity Breast Cancer Now.

Eluned Hughes, Head of Public Health at Breast Cancer Now, said: “We’re so pleased to be working with Balance North East again on this campaign. Our ambition at Breast Cancer Now is that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live and part of this mission is to pinpoint the root causes. That’s why we run the Breast Cancer Now Generations Study, the world’s largest and most comprehensive study of its kind, following more than 113,000 women across the UK of different ages and from a range of backgrounds.

“Through detailed analysis of the various lifestyle and environmental factors that might influence breast cancer risk we are confident that we can unravel some of the biggest questions about how to prevent the disease altogether.

“Until this day comes we recommend that women try to maintain a healthy weight, are regularly physically active and if they do drink, to do so in moderation in order to help reduce their risk of developing this devastating disease.”

For more information about Balance’s alcohol and seven cancers campaign and to see the TV advert, visit

Find us on Facebook at and on Twitter @BalanceNE. Tweet us using #7cancers