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alcohol health alliance uk

NE drinkers increasing their risks of an alcohol related cancer

Alcohol can cause cancer

Alcohol can cause cancer

Posted 04/11/19

Cancers related to alcohol are on the rise in the North East – with an estimated 3,120 incidences of alcohol-related cancer recorded from 2015-17 (see local breakdown below).

The latest figures are highlighted as Balance launches the #7Cancers campaign in the North East to encourage people to stick to the “low risk” limits to reduce their risk of cancer.

The Chief Medical Officer’s advice is for both men and women to drink no more than 14 units a week to stay “low risk”. However, research by Balance suggests over a quarter of North East adults (around 550,000 people) drink above that limit and 9/10 of these think they’re “moderate” or “low risk” drinkers.

Balance will be out and about across the region in November in hospitals, supermarkets and shopping centres to help people understand alcohol units. The campaign website also includes a quiz where people can find out how their weekly units can mount up and find free tips and tools to cut down.

Alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer and around 11,900 cases of cancer in the UK every year, including up to 3,600 mouth and throat cancers, around 4,400 breast cancers and around 2,500 bowel cancers .

The North East has the 2nd worst rate in the country with alcohol-related cancer rates having risen by 5.8% since 2004-06, although the increase is lower than the 7.2% rise for the rest of England.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “These figures are shocking in themselves but it is truly worrying that hundreds of thousands of people are drinking above the low risk limits without realising they are putting themselves at increased risk of cancer and other medical conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

“Many of us still underestimate how much we drink. We know it can be tricky to work out how many units are consumed over the course of a week. Surprisingly, it is not younger adults but people aged over 45 who are most likely to be regularly drinking above 14 units a week.

“We’re running this campaign as people have a right to know about the links between alcohol and cancer but you will not see this on the bottle or can. While we need to keep raising awareness, alcohol is still too affordable, too available and too heavily promoted and we need a comprehensive, evidence-based alcohol strategy to make a real difference.”

The campaign, which launches on Nov 4, is supported by Cancer Research UK and will be running during Alcohol Awareness Week from 11-17 November*.

Dr Tony Branson, Consultant Clinical Oncologist and Clinical Lead for the Northern Cancer Alliance, said: “We might just see it as a harmless drink, but just like tobacco, alcohol is a cause of cancers of the bowel, mouth, throat and oesophagus.

“It is very easy for the units to mount up. There is no safe limit and the health risks outweigh any benefits. However reducing how much you drink and taking more drink free days can help to reduce the risk.”

What is the guidance?
• The Chief Medical Officer’s guideline is that men and women are safest not to drink regularly more than 14 units per week.
• The guideline states that a good way to cut down on alcohol consumption is to have several drink-free days each week.
• 14 units of alcohol is equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or six medium glasses of wine. However - just one pint of strong lager or a large glass of wine can contain more than three units of alcohol.

Local breakdown

Figures from Public Health England’s Local Alcohol Profiles for England show 3,120 incidences of alcohol-related cancer in the North East from 2015-17, including:

• 210 in South Tyneside
• 285 in Newcastle
• 250 in North Tyneside
• 325 in Sunderland
• 430 in Northumberland
• 230 in Gateshead
• 615 in County Durham