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Keep cancer risks low urges new alcohol campaign

Balance Tumour campaign

Balance Tumour campaign

Posted 27/06/16

Even relatively low levels of drinking alcohol can increase your risk of cancer, according to a campaign launched today (Monday 27 June) by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office.

The campaign re-launch follows the first review of the alcohol drinking guidelines in 20 years, led by the Chief Medical Officers across the UK and informed by a comprehensive review of the latest evidence by a group of leading, independent experts.

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of at least seven different types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth and throat, bowel and breast cancer in women. Most recent data shows that more than one quarter (27%) of all new cancer cases registered in the North East – some 4,200 per year – were made up of these cancer types.

Bowel cancer incidence rates have remained stable over the past decade. Female breast cancer incidence rates have increased 8% over the last decade. The increase in the incidence rate of mouth and throat cancers over the same period was 34% - and almost one in three mouth and throat cancers are thought to be linked to alcohol.

Public awareness of the links between alcohol and cancer remain low. A recent Cancer Research UK study, carried out by Sheffield University, found only around one in 10 people mentioned cancer when asked which health conditions they thought could result from drinking too much alcohol.

The campaign will help the people of the North East keep their risks low, by encouraging them to drink within the new recommended guidelines of 14 units of alcohol per week for both men and women.

The campaign film shows a man reach into the fridge for a bottle of lager, which he then pours into a glass. As he starts to drink something is visible in the bottom of the glass. The more he drinks, the bigger the object gets. In the final shots the viewer sees a tumour sliding towards his mouth. You can view the film here –

Sue Taylor, Partnerships Manager for Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “So many people remain unaware of the links between alcohol and cancer, as well as the health risks associated with alcohol in general.

“This is particularly worrying when we’re seeing such sharp increases in alcohol-related hospital admissions. The fact is, these diseases so often creep up on us, with many people believing they’re drinking in moderation, when actually they’re drinking more than they think.

“We know from evaluation of our previous campaign work that awareness of the links between alcohol and cancer is growing amongst the North East public, but still much remains to be done to raise awareness levels. Only by making people aware of the risks, can they make informed choices about how much they drink.”

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention, said: “We're pleased to lend our support to Balance's campaign. The campaign comes at a crucial time when public awareness of the links between alcohol and cancer is still worryingly low.

“Over the four weeks, the campaign is set to reinforce new guidelines issued by the UK Chief Medical Officer earlier this year, following the first comprehensive review of the evidence in 20 years. The evidence shows that the risk of developing a range of illnesses, including cancer, increases with any amount of alcohol you drink. We believe it's vital to equip people with all the information they need to make informed choices about the levels they drink and this campaign supports just that.”

Dr John Green, GP at Prudhoe Medical Group, has also lent his support to the campaign. He said: “Alcohol is a poison, it’s in the same cancer causing group as tobacco smoke and asbestos, and is linked to more than 60 medical conditions, as well as accidents and injuries. I see patients every day affected by cancer. There are many different reasons why people get cancer, but drinking is one of the things we have control over and can do something about.

“Balance’s campaign is all about raising awareness of the risks to help people make an informed choice about how much they’re drinking. There are many steps people can take to cut back and one of the things we hope this campaign will do is raise awareness and get people thinking about drinking a little less.”

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

People can find us on Facebook at and on Twitter @BalanceNE. Tweet using #7cancers