Victoria McEwan, from Newcastle, said: “I didn’t know it can cause seven types of cancer. Obviously as a woman you’re not really aware it can cause breast cancer, or I wasn’t anyway. It is quite scary.”
Dad-of-three Gary Telfer, from Newcastle, said: “I wasn’t aware of how many types of cancer that alcohol causes. I was aware of liver problems and stuff but it is frightening, especially when you have young children.”
Abby Phinn, from South Tyneside, said: “I didn’t know alcohol can cause bowel and breast cancer. I knew it was linked to cancer, just like smoking. That is quite surprising.”
Susan Taylor, Head of Alcohol Policy for Fresh and Balance, said: “The North East has seen an increase in alcohol related deaths and alcohol is one of the major risk factors which will contribute to the predicted rise in cancers by 2040. A big concern is that it is people aged 45 and over are likely to be drinking the most, at a time when their cancer risk already increases due to age.
“There’s a worrying information gap when it comes to alcohol and cancer. It is clearly a shock for many people to learn alcohol causes at least 7 types of cancer – and especially breast and bowel cancer. We all have a right to know this information, which is one of the main reasons why we are launching our campaign.
She added: “Nearly a million people in the North East are drinking enough to store up serious and life-limiting health problems in the future, like cancer, heart disease and liver disease. But there is local support out there. There is too much stigma around harmful alcohol use and people can reach out for help to cut down.”
Dr James Crosbie a GP and consultant gastroenterologist with South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We don’t tend to think about alcohol as a carcinogen compared to tobacco. But evidence is now clear that it causes at least seven different types of cancers.
“It is not just heavy drinkers who are at risk of an alcohol-related cancer but we know that the more you drink, the greater the risk. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories which can increase our weight and our risk of cancer. And unlike age, gender and family history, alcohol is one risk factor that we can change, control and do something positive about.”
Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health for Gateshead Council and Lead Alcohol Director of Public Health for the North East, said: “Alcohol companies downplay the risks because they would prefer people to think health problems only happen to people who drink heavily. But the fact is that alcohol is a Class A carcinogen, like tobacco or asbestos.
“Campaigns like this are needed to cut through the spin. For decades the alcohol industry has sold the myth that drinking made us more popular, more attractive and fun, but alcohol companies are hugely reluctant to acknowledge the harms, such as the link with cancer.
“Unlike smoking we often overlook the risks of alcohol. What is particularly interesting is how women are so surprised that alcohol causes breast cancer. We don’t see health information on the product or in any national advertising campaigns. Instead we see cheap strong alcohol promoted everywhere which ends up harming lives.”
She added: “We can see people want clear health information on alcohol – the type drinks companies aren’t giving them. Awareness through this campaign is a positive step, but not enough. Alcohol is still far too cheap, far too available and far too heavily promoted and we need a comprehensive, evidence-based national alcohol strategy to make a real difference.”
Around 17,000 people in the UK were diagnosed with an alcohol-related cancer in 2020, or 1 in 25 cases . Separate figures also show 3,145 people in the North East were diagnosed with an alcohol-related cancer between 2016 and 2018.
More than 8/10 people who saw the Alcohol Causes Cancer campaign by Balance in the North East said it is important to have health campaigns on the risks.
3: Alcohol, cancer and obesity: The study of 400,000 adults in Britain looked at increased risk from cancers of the mouth, throat and larynx, oesophagus, liver, bowel, stomach and female breast, and was presented at the European Congress on Obesity. The findings have prompted campaigners to call for more information on calories and risk of cancer on alcohol products, which the vast majority of products fail to do. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20220506/Obesity-plus-alcohol-intake-may-increase-risk-of-developing-alcohol-related-cancer.aspx