The Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COC), is a UK committee of independent experts which advises the Department of Health, the Food Standards Agency and other government departments and agencies on the likelihood of cancer of chemicals found in food, consumer products and the environment. The COC has previously looked at whether drinking alcohol in alcoholic beverages causes cancer, and in 2013 it decided to look at the new evidence.
Drinking alcohol has been shown to increase the risk (or chance) of getting some types of cancer. This does not mean that everyone who drinks alcohol will get cancer, but studies have shown that some cancers are more common in people who drink more alcohol.
These are the main conclusions of their latest review:
- Drinking alcohol causes cancers of the mouth (oral cavity) and throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), gullet (oesophagus), large bowel (colorectum), liver and the female breast. Alcohol consumption probably also has a role in cancer of the pancreas.
- People who drink even low levels of alcohol have a greater risk of getting some cancers than people who do not drink alcohol.
- Even at low levels of alcohol intake, below 1.5 units per day (10.5 units per week), there is an increased risk of the following cancer types:
– mouth and throat (oral cavity and pharynx)
– gullet (oesophagus)
– breast in women
- At alcohol intakes above approximately 1.5 units per day (10.5 units per week), there is an increased risk of the following cancer types:
– voice box (larynx)
– large bowel (colorectum)
- At high levels of alcohol intake, above approximately 6 units per day (42 units per week), there is an increased risk of the following cancer types:
- The risk of getting cancer increases the more alcohol a person drinks.
- The risk of getting some alcohol-related cancers gradually decreases over time in people who stop drinking alcohol, but it can take many years for the risk to fall to levels similar to those in people who have never drunk alcohol. It is logical to assume that reducing alcohol consumption would also lead to a reduction in cancer risk.
The full report can be read here
See the alcohol concern fact-sheet here
At this time of year many people are taking a break from booze and having a ‘Dry January’.Research carried out earlier this year showed 67% of participants had sustained reduced levels of drinking 6 months after completing Dry January – this may reduce the risk of future cancers.
Read more about Dry January here