Altering alcohol drinking habits will reduce risk of certain cancers

Drinkaware, the national charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse in Ireland, is urging consumers to be aware of the link between alcohol and the risk of developing certain cancers, and how changes to drinking habits can help reduce that risk.

On World Cancer Day (today, Thursday, February 4 ), Drinkaware is calling on more people to join the one in three Irish adults who have already made positive changes when it comes to their drinking habits (Drinkaware Barometer 2020 ).

The national survey, which was conducted in April 2020, also found 25 percent said they were drinking less and a further 25 percent who would like to change their drinking habits for the better but had yet to do so.

Alcohol is a modifiable risk factor for at least seven types of cancer and Drinkaware advocates reducing the risk by drinking less or not at all. The charity promotes knowing what low risk drinking is, which despite half of the adult population drinking on a weekly basis (Drinkaware Index, B&A, 2019 ), only two percent know the HSE low-risk weekly guidelines

According to the charity, which engages extensively with the general public on a national level, not knowing leads to not following the low-risk guidelines, which exposes people to increased risk of alcohol-related cancers, and other harms. Drinkaware contends that public awareness of the guidelines must be increased if harmful drinking is to be reduced.

“We know people are interested in reducing their drinking and that a main driver for this is physical health (Drinkaware Index 2019 ). And we know many are taking steps towards this already. These positive intentions and changes are vital but can be daunting, and need to be encouraged. Providing information, advice and tips in a straight-forward practical and non-judgmental way can be an effective support. Support from others, especially those in your household, is also key when it comes to cultivating new positive habits that can last long beyond the pandemic,” Sheena Horgan, Drinkaware CEO, commented.

Visits to the Drinkaware website in 2020 exceeded half a million as people searched for information and resources to help support a change in habits by them and their loved ones. The on-line calculator https://www.drinkaware.ie/drinks-calculator/ and ‘Tips to drink less’ were two of the most popular pages in 2020.

“World Cancer Day gives us all the chance to focus on the lifestyle changes we can make for the better to support long-term health, specifically lowering the risk of alcohol-related cancers. Anything that empowers individuals, or others, to explore healthier habits and coping strategies that don’t involve alcohol, is a step in the right direction, and there’s a wealth of help and information to support this at www.drinkaware.ie, www.hse.ie and www.mariekeating.ie,” Ms Hordan added.

As part of World Cancer Day, Drinkaware has provided three additional tips to help people understand their drinking habits and make changes to reduce this risk:

Know and stay within the low-risk weekly alcohol guidelines: Getting the facts can help you to know how much you’re really drinking. It only takes a moment to check at www.drinkaware.ie

Use a measure at home: Free pouring makes it almost impossible to know how much you’re really drinking. With home drinking on the rise during Covid-19, use a measure for spirits and wine. Order one for free at www.drinkaware.ie Be sober curious: Stock up on alcohol-free alternatives. Cutting out alcohol entirely is one of 12 actions from the WHO European Code Against Cancer that we can take to be healthier and support cancer prevention.

Keep a record: Track how much you drink during a week, over a weekend, or throughout the month to fully understand how much, how often and why you drink. It’s easy to underestimate our alcohol consumption over time. Keeping a diary can help to put you in the picture and empower you to make a change.

 

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