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Rise in alcohol-related breast cancer hospital admissions

Posted 08/12/14

Almost six women a day are admitted to hospital with alcohol-related breast cancer in the North East.

The worrying figures have been published today (Monday 8th December) by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, as part of its Think Twice campaign. They reveal a 13% increase in the number of alcohol-related breast cancer hospital admissions in the region between 2008/09 and 2012/13 against a national increase of 9%.

The campaign has encouraged a North East woman to step forward and urge women across the region to think twice.

The regional alcohol-related breast cancer hospital admissions figures show:

Regularly drinking alcohol – even just one drink a day – can increase a woman’s risk of developing the disease, which is the most common cancer in the UK. However, two thirds of women in the North East don’t realise that the more they drink the greater their risk of developing breast cancer.

Janet Forster, from Cochrane Park in Newcastle, who is recovering after being diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago, is one of scores of women across the region who wasn’t fully aware of the link between alcohol and breast cancer.

Before being diagnosed Janet admits to regularly enjoying a couple of glasses of wine at night with her dinner and not thinking about how many units she was consuming. However, her attitude towards drinking has shifted following treatment and she now rarely drinks at all.

The 51-year-old said: “My breast cancer was hormone-related but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been exacerbated by drinking. For me it’s about the fear of recurrence and I don’t want to go back to regularly drinking again because of the breast cancer connection. I can’t go through what I have been through again.

“That’s why this campaign is so important as it’s not about telling women to never drink again, it’s making them aware of this link and providing them with the information so they can then assess their own drinking habits and make changes if they think it necessary.”

Dr Wendy Carr, a Breast Physician at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, has seen first-hand the increase in the number of breast cancer cases. She said: “It’s concerning to see a rise in the number of alcohol-related breast cancer admissions here in the North East and it goes to show how important it is to make women aware of the link between alcohol and breast cancer.

“In my experience, many women are often very surprised to find out that drinking alcohol can increase their risk of not only developing breast cancer but also of recurrence. I would encourage women to assess how much alcohol they are drinking and cut back or take a few days out.”

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust runs education and support groups to share information about simple lifestyle changes that can help reduce the risk of breast cancer. While there are many factors out of a woman’s control, there are a few – such as cutting back on alcohol intake - which can be changed to reduce a woman’s risk.

The Think Twice campaign, launched by Balance and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, aims to increase awareness of the link between alcohol and breast cancer and encourage women to take stock of their alcohol intake.

To read more about Janet's breast cancer journey click here.