Alcohol linked to seven types of cancer

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Almost 90 per cent of people don’t associate drinking alcohol with an increased risk of cancer, according to a new report commissioned by Cancer Research UK.

Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of seven different cancers - liver, breast, bowel, mouth, throat, oesophageal (food pipe), laryngeal (voice box) - but when people were asked “which, if any, health conditions do you think can result from drinking too much alcohol?” just 13 per cent of adults mentioned cancer.

The survey also highlighted a lack of understanding of the link between drinking alcohol and the risk of developing certain types of cancer. When prompted by asking about seven different cancer types, 80 per cent said they thought alcohol caused liver cancer but only 18 per cent were aware of the link with breast cancer.

In contrast alcohol causes 3,200 breast cancer cases each year compared to 400 cases of liver cancer.

The report comes ahead of the consultation closing on how well new drinking guidelines proposed by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers in January are communicated. These drew attention to the link between alcohol and cancer, and highlighted the need for greater public awareness of this risk.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said: “The link between alcohol and cancer is now well established, and it’s not just heavy drinkers who are at risk. This is reflected in the new guidelines issued by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers that stated that the risk of developing a range of illnesses, including cancer, increased with any amount of alcohol you drink.

“It’s concerning that so few people know that alcohol increases the risk of seven types of cancer. If the new guidelines are to make a difference and change drinking habits, national health campaigns are needed to provide clear information.”