One in five breast cancers linked to alcohol

Sunday 1 May, 2011

New analysis shows impact of booze on cancer understated

New Cancer Council analysis published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows the level of cancer incidence caused by alcohol in Australia is higher than previously thought, with more than 5,000 new cases each year linked to long-term drinking.

Applying the latest international data to Australia, the analysis estimated that 22% of the nation's breast cancer cases were linked to alcohol consumption. It also factored in new evidence linking alcohol to bowel cancer in men.

Cancer Council Australia CEO and a co-author of the analysis, Professor Ian Olver, said community awareness of the links between alcohol and cancer should be raised so people could make more informed lifestyle choices to help minimise their cancer risk.

"We have known for some time that alcohol is a major risk factor for breast cancer, but only by applying international data to Australian drinking patterns were we able to estimate that more than one in five cases here are linked to alcohol," Professor Olver said.

"Factor in the new evidence on bowel cancer in men and the established links to cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and liver, and alcohol is clearly one of the most carcinogenic products in common use."

Professor Olver said the impact on breast cancer was a particular concern, as there were few other steps women could take to minimise their risk.

"A lot of effort goes into raising breast cancer awareness, but how many Australian women are aware that reducing alcohol consumption is one of the best ways to reduce their breast cancer risk?" he said.

Professor Olver said the dose-response relationship meant the risk of alcohol-related cancer increased with every drink consumed.

"The more alcohol you consume over time, the higher your risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer.

"So if individuals do choose to drink, our advice is to do so in accordance with the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines, which recommend no more than two standard drinks a day."

Launch of alcohol and cancer TV ads in Victoria

On 1 May 2011, Cancer Council Victoria launched a new TV advertising campaign in Victoria to improve awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer. The two graphic ads, Spread and Stains, encourage people to limit the amount of alcohol they consume, and to not exceed more than two standard drinks in a single day.

In a recent Cancer Council Victoria survey only 9% of respondents listed limiting alcohol as a way to decrease their cancer risk.

The graphic TV adverts were developed by the WA Drug and Alcohol office and this is the first time they'll be shown in Victoria.

One advert, Spread, shows wine spilling out of a glass before spreading through veins to parts of the body where it can cause cancer. The other shows Stains as left by a glass of red wine forming the word ‘cancer'.

Cancer Council Victoria is providing the adverts to TV networks as Community Service Announcements from today.