With last week marking the end of Dry July, the temptation is to pick up a drink and celebrate, but it’s important not to fall back into old habits. Limiting your alcohol intake or, better still, avoiding it altogether reduces your risk of cancer.
Why should I continue limiting my alcohol intake?
Alcohol consumption is responsible for approximately 830 cases of breast cancer and 870 cases of bowel cancer each year. In fact, we now know more than 3,200 cancer cases are attributed to alcohol in Australia each year.
Alcohol increases your risk of 7 different types of cancer including mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, bowel, liver and breast. And if you’ve had cancer, cutting down on alcohol can help prevent it from coming back.
Despite this, Australians’ knowledge of alcohol’s long-term harms continues to be low, with fewer than half aware of the link between alcohol use and stroke, and mouth and throat cancer.
How does alcohol cause cancer?
The type of alcohol you drink, beer, wine or spirits does not make a difference to cancer risk. All alcoholic drinks contain ethanol, which irritates your body’s cells. Over a prolonged period of time (even with moderate amounts), this cell irritation can lead to cancer.
Alcohol can damage the lining of the mouth and throat causing cancer in these parts of the body. It can also impact the levels of hormones that are linked to breast cancer. And when digested it can break down into compounds that cause cancer.
The high calorie content of alcoholic drinks can contribute to weight gain over time, which in turn is another risk factor for many types of cancer. Find out more about the links between body weight and cancer here.
What can I do to reduce my cancer risk?
If you do choose to drink, follow the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines and have no more than two standard drinks a day to reduce the risk of long-term harm and aim to have no more than four standard drinks in one session to reduce the risk of alcohol related injury. Also, aim for a few alcohol-free days each week.
With Dry July coming to an end, why not keep up the good work and make a conscious effort to cut down your alcohol intake and reduce your cancer risk.
Find out more about our healthy eating and drinking tips here.