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alcohol health alliance uk

Health warning over long term risks of drinking too much, too often

Posted 10/12/13

Experts in the North East are warning about the long-term risks of alcohol as new figures reveal a sharp increase in the number of hospital admissions for alcohol-related cancers in the region.

Analysis carried out by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, shows that the number of male hospital admissions for alcohol-related cancer of the lip, oral cavity and pharynx has more than doubled (102%) over the last nine years (2002/03 – 2011/12).

Within the same period there was also an 88% increase in the number of female hospital admissions for alcohol-related breast cancer. The highest percentage increases for breast cancer were seen amongst the under 45s.

Hospital admissions for all alcohol-related cancer increased by 28% in the region.

Figures also showed that deaths from alcohol-related cancers account for around one in five of all alcohol-related deaths in the North East.

Dr Tony Branson, Consultant Clinical Oncologist at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals and medical director of the North of England Cancer Network, said: “The North of England Cancer Network is committed to reducing deaths from cancer. A major part must come from a decrease in the incidence of avoidable cancers. Reduction of alcohol consumption, particularly excessive and long term drinking, would make a significant contribution to this.”

The findings follow the launch of a hard-hitting health campaign by Balance which highlights the link between alcohol and seven types of cancer - mouth cancer, pharyngeal cancer (upper throat), oesophageal cancer (food pipe), laryngeal cancer (voice box), breast cancer, bowel cancer and liver cancer.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “These figures are extremely worrying. Alcohol is a poison, it’s in the same cancer causing group as tobacco smoke and asbestos – we really need to continue to drive this message home.

“It’s important that people are aware of the serious long term health risks associated with drinking alcohol, as well as the short term health implications. Alcohol is linked to more than 60 different medical conditions, including cancer, liver disease, osteoporosis, stomach ulcers, raised blood pressure, stroke and dementia.

“And it isn’t just the elderly or very heavy drinkers who are at risk. Research shows that you are three times more likely to develop cancers of the mouth and throat by drinking above the recommended limits. And regularly drinking just above the recommended guidelines increases the risk of getting breast cancer by around 20%.

“Our advice is to stay within the Government’s recommended limits and to try and have at least two alcohol-free days each week.”

Department of Health guidelines recommend no more than 2-3 units a day for women and a maximum of 3-4 units a day for men, with at least two alcohol free days per week. There are two units in a standard 175ml glass of wine (ABV 13%) and three units in a pint of strong lager, beer or cider (ABV 5.2%) so you might be consuming more than you think. You can get further information and can see how much you are drinking by using the online drinks checker at