Revealed: Shock link found between alcohol and cancer
Just seven standard drinks a week can increase the chance of getting cancer by 10 per cent for those aged over 45 years, the nation's largest investigation into cancer risk and alcohol consumption has found.
The study by Cancer Council NSW of more than 226,000 Australians found that alcohol consumption was directly linked to the risk of liver, oesophagus, mouth, pharynx, larynx, bowel and breast cancer.
Drinking seven drinks a week can cause a 48 per cent spike in the chance of getting liver cancer, 14 per cent spike in bowel cancer risk and 15 per cent spike in breast cancer risk.
Over a lifetime for every 100 people exceeding 14 drinks per week, approximately 5 of them will develop cancer due to their alcohol consumption by age 85 years - most commonly breast cancer for women and bowel cancer for men.
Cancer Council NSW researcher Peter Sarich said the shock findings were crucial given the increase in alcohol consumption during the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's surprising to many people that alcohol is linked to breast cancer despite previous research showing us that alcohol is responsible for over 800 breast cancer cases per year and more than 3,500 cancers in Australia every year," Mr Sarich said.
"Our findings are even more important in the current environment of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent ABS survey found 14 per cent of people had increased alcohol consumption. If we don't reverse this trend we will see a significant rise in alcohol caners in Australia."
Mr Sarich said there needs to be urgent attention placed on alcohol advertising, pricing and policy from the government.
"We know that the risk of alcohol and cancer applies to people of all age groups but a national survey last year shows people in their 40s and 50s are most likely to exceed national drinking guidelines which puts them at a higher risk," he said.
"We really do call on policy makes and government to address the long term health risks of alcohol use. There are a range of things that can be done including limiting the density of alcohol retailers, limiting advertising drinks during sporting events and advertising to young people."
Two time breast cancer survivor Sue Woodward cut back on alcohol to reduce her risk of getting the illness again.
"After I had the first lot of breast cancer, I thought how can I reduce my risk? I eat well but I thought I'll eat even better, exercise more and cut back on drinking," the 68-year-old said.
"A 15 per cent increase in risks is a lot. We've all got a one-in-nine chance already of getting breast cancer without anything else. If you've been through it, you won't ever wish it upon anyone."
Originally published as Revealed: Shock link found between alcohol and cancer