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‘Strong agreement’ alcohol can cause ‘several types’ of cancer according to new research

today30 June 2022

Background
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New research has shown that alcohol can cause ‘several types’ of cancer but it is possible to reduce the risk. Whilst cancer can be very difficult to stop once it has spread around the body, measures can be taken to mitigate the risk of cancer in the first place.

According to new health website Cancer FactFinder, alcohol can increase your risk by a large amount. The site applies scientific scrutiny to common claims about cancer risk.

The Express reports that the website says: “There is strong agreement that alcohol use can cause several types of cancer, and it has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen (meaning that it is cancer-causing in humans) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).”

Read more: Bowel cancer symptoms Deborah James wanted us to know about

It adds that there is a strong “dose-response association” between alcohol use and cancer. This means the more alcohol a person drinks regularly over time, the higher a person’s risk is of developing an alcohol-associated cancer.

These include:

  • Head and neck: Moderate drinkers have 1.8-fold higher risk of oral cavity and pharynx (throat) cancers and 1.4-fold higher risk of larynx (voice box) cancers than non-drinkers. Heavy drinkers have five-fold higher risk of oral cavity and pharynx cancers and 2.6-fold higher risk of larynx cancers (NCI).
  • Oesophageal: Compared with those who do not drink alcohol, the risk ranges from 1.3-fold higher for light drinkers to nearly five-fold higher for heavy drinkers (NCI).
  • Liver: Heavy alcohol drinking is associated with approximately two-fold increased risk of two types of liver cancer.
  • Breast: The cancer risk increase is greater in moderate drinkers (1.23-fold higher) and heavy drinkers (1.6-fold higher).
  • Colorectal: Moderate to heavy alcohol drinking is associated with 1.2- to 1.5-fold increased risk of cancers of the colon and rectum, compared with no alcohol consumption.

The association is of particular concern in the UK, where rates of alcohol misuse are particularly high. In England, among people aged 15 to 49 years, alcohol is the leading cause of ill-health, disability, and death, according to Government statistics published last year.

Alcohol misuse across the UK is a significant public health problem with major health, social and economic consequences, estimated at between £21 and £52 billion a year.

According to Government statistics, around 21 percent of the adult population in England and 24 percent of adults in England and Scotland, regularly drink at levels that increase their risk of ill health (increasing risk and higher risk drinkers).

The UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) advise that to keep the risk from alcohol low, adults should not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

A unit of alcohol is 8g or 10ml of pure alcohol, which is about:

  • Half a pint of lower to normal-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 3.6 percent)
  • A single small shot measure (25ml) of spirits (25ml, ABV 40 percent).

Other risk factors

According to Cancer Research UK, smoking causes at least 15 different types of cancer. And tobacco is the biggest cause of cancer in the world. How? The charity explains: “Tobacco smoke contains many chemicals that damage the DNA in your cells. And it’s not just dangerous for your lungs – tobacco damages cells around your entire body.”

Other risk factors include:

  • Older age
  • A personal or family history of cancer
  • Obesity
  • Some types of viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Specific chemicals.

Symptoms to spot and how to respond

It’s important to be aware of any new or worrying symptoms. The NHS explains: “Although it’s unlikely to be cancer, it’s important to speak to a GP so they can investigate. Finding cancer early means it’s easier to treat.”

General signs include changes in bowel habits, bloating and coughing, chest pain and breathlessness. “If your GP suspects cancer, they’ll refer you to a specialist – usually within two week,” adds the NHS.

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Written by: thehitnetwork

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