Now I want to make it clear from the start that my aim here is not to scare monger. If we were to listen to everything that is meant to be linked to cancer (drinking too much tea, not drinking enough tea, snoring) we would go crazy. However aside from all the other health issues that are well publicised such as cirrhosis and Korsakoff’s syndrome, there is also a very worrying link between alcohol and cancer and I think this is an important message to share.
Research has shown that 6% of cancer deaths are linked to alcohol abuse. Heavy drinking can lead to liver cirrhosis and which in turn is related to cancer of the liver and pancreas. About 5% of patients with cirrhosis develop cancer, but several other types of common cancer, especially breast and bowel cancer, can occur more often even with much lower levels of drinking.
Even drinking 3 units a day increased the risk of cancer to some extent, and 6 units a day (3 glasses of wine or 2 pints of strong lager) increases the risk significantly:
Breast cancer risk in women is usually 1 in 9 (it’s a very common cancer) but 6 units a day increases that to 1 in 6, oesophageal cancer (this is becoming more common) from 1 in 75 to 1 in 38, bowel cancer from 1 in 15 to 1 in 12 and mouth cancer from 1 in 90 to 1 in 30 – that’s three times the risk, a 300% increase. Mouth and throat cancers are much more likely in smokers who drink because the alcohol increases the absorption of the carcinogens in tobacco.
Cancer is just one of the many serious risks posed by increased levels of alcohol consumption which is why we want to help as many people as we can, no-one deserves to suffer from these illnesses when the disease of alcohol addiction itself is so treatable.