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Excess alcohol 'raises cancer risk'

Regularly drinking two large glasses of wine or two strong pints of beer a day triples the risk of developing mouth cancer, a new Government campaign will say.

The adverts aim to show that drinking just over the recommended daily limit for alcohol increases the risk of serious health problems.

NHS recommendations are that men should not regularly drink more than three to four units a day, while women should not regularly drink more than two to three.

Adverts will run under the Change4Life banner and people will be able to access a new online calculator to work out how much they are drinking. Two million leaflets will also be made available to Change4Life supporters and health professionals across England.

Drinkers will be encouraged to cut down through measures such as having alcohol-free days, not drinking at home before going out, swapping to low or alcohol-free drinks and using smaller glasses.

The campaign follows a survey of more than 2,000 people which found 85% do not realise that drinking over recommended limits increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Some 65% were unaware it increases the risk of bowel cancer, 63% did not know about a raised risk of pancreatitis and 59% did not realise excess drinking increases the risk of mouth, throat and neck cancer.

Some 30% did not realise that drinking just over the limits increases the risk of high blood pressure and 37% did not realise it can impact on fertility.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "It's crucial we support people to know about how drinking too much poses risks to their health and how they can take control of their drinking. It can be easy to slip into the habit of having a few extra drinks each day, especially when drinking at home. But there can be serious health risks. Don't let drinking sneak up on you."

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "An estimated 10 million Brits drink more than the recommended limits for alcohol, which puts one in five of us at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and weight gain. There's absolutely no reason why we can't all enjoy our favourite tipple in moderation, but don't underestimate the health risks when one glass becomes two or three on a regular basis."

Sarah Lyness, executive director of policy and information at Cancer Research UK, said: "The risk of cancer starts to go up even at quite low levels of drinking, but the more people cut back on alcohol, the more they can reduce the risk."


From Belfast Telegraph