Teetotaler Christmas: Experts warn you should ditch the booze to reduce cancer risk

Dec 09, 2019
The Cancer Council has issued a warning to Australians to reconsider their alcohol intake this festive season. Source: Getty

It can be really easy to hit the bottle a little too hard over the festive season, as your calendar quickly fills up with Christmas parties and family gatherings, but drinking too much can be detrimental for your health.

The Cancer Council has issued a warning to Australians to reconsider their alcohol intake this festive season, after research showed nearly 30,000 cancer cases could be prevented by sticking to the government’s alcohol guidelines of no more than two standard drinks per day.

The study, conducted by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, examined how many cancer cases could be prevented in Australia in scenarios where people reduced their alcohol intake or stopped drinking entirely.

The research estimated up to 4 per cent of alcohol-related cancers, such as oral, breast, stomach, liver and bowel, could be avoided if alcohol consumption stopped.

Clare Hughes, nutrition program manager at Cancer Council Australia, said: “We know that alcohol is a cause of cancer and these figures show just how many cases could be prevented if Australians either stopped drinking entirely or at least drank alcohol within the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines for alcohol consumption.

“The festive season has become synonymous with sharing a drink with friends thanks to clever and pervasive marketing by the alcohol industry and approximately 80 per cent of Australians consume alcohol.”

When looking at cancer risk, Hughes says there’s actually no safe limit of alcohol consumption.

“In fact, the more alcohol consumed over a lifetime, the greater the risk of developing alcohol-related cancers,” she explains. “If we can help more people to understand the potential long-term harms of consuming alcohol, even in small amounts, it has the potential to save many lives.”

If you still like to enjoy a drink, Hughes advises limiting your intake to no more than two standard drinks a day and scheduling some alcohol-free days.

Hughes says limiting alcohol could prevent over 16,000 bowel cancer cases and just over 4,000 breast cancer cases.

“The number of alcohol-related cancer cases that could be prevented further climbed when the researchers looked at what would happen if people stopped drinking entirely,” she concludes.

The latest stats from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that more than three million people around the world die each year as a result of harmful alcohol use. This represents one in 20 deaths, while the harmful use of alcohol causes more than 5 per cent of the total global disease burden.

There are a number of ways to reduce the long-term risks from excessive alcohol consumption, including switching to lower strength varieties or drinking alcohol-free beer instead.

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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