‘Strong evidence’ linking alcohol with seven cancer types

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There is “strong evidence” that alcohol causes cancer in seven sites around the body - leading to increased calls on people to give up drinking for good.

The study, by scientists in New Zealand, reviewed existing research and found strong evidence of a direct, harmful effect of drinking, even though the exact biological reasons why alcohol causes cancer are unknown.

From 2012 to 2014, there were an estimated 5-6,000 alcohol-related cancers in Yorkshire - with particularly high rates in Doncaster and Hull.

The 2014 Health Survey for England found that 28.5 per cent of the Yorkshire population were estimated to usually drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week - the highest proportion of any region and was significantly higher than the England average of 24.2 per cent, Yorkshire Cancer Research pointed out.

Chief executive Charles Rowett said: “The link between alcohol and cancer is well-established, however public knowledge remains low. It’s incredibly important that we raise awareness of the dangers of drinking alcohol, particularly in Yorkshire where levels of alcohol consumption are very high. Yorkshire Cancer Research will be launching a new community health programme later in the year which will aim to encourage people to think more seriously about the effect of lifestyle choices on their health.”

Writing in the journal Addiction today, Jennie Connor from the University of Otago, said alcohol is estimated to have caused about half a million deaths from cancer in 2012 alone - 5.8 per cent of cancer deaths worldwide.

The highest risks are from heavy drinking, but low levels are contribute to risk. The review linked alcohol to cancer of the mouth and throat, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, bowel and breast.

She said there is no safe level of drinking with respect to cancer and that the supposed health benefits of drinking - such as red wine being good for the heart - were “seen increasingly as disingenuous or irrelevant in comparison to the increase in risk of a range of cancers”.

Susannah Brown of the World Cancer Research Fund, said: “For cancer prevention, we have long recommended that people should not drink alcohol at all, but we understand that this can be easier said than done.”