New UK alcohol guidelines offer little cheer for drinkers

14 January 2016

new UK alcohol guidelines

12 January 2016

Drinking any level of alcohol raises the risk of a range of cancers, according to new UK guidelines.

And they make it clear that no level of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.

The expert advisory group that drew up the guidelines says there is strong evidence that the risk of a range of cancers, particularly breast cancer, increases directly in line with consumption of any amount of alcohol.

The guidelines coincide with a new study that shows 4% to 6% of all new cancers in the UK in 2013 were caused by alcohol consumption, reports The BMJ.

The study shows a statistically significant increase in the risk of cancer at low, medium, and high levels of alcohol intake for cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, oesophagus, and breast.

At medium and high levels of alcohol intake (over 1.5 units a day) there is an increased risk of cancers of the larynx and colorectum.

At high levels of intake (over 6 units a day) there is an increased risk of cancers of the liver and pancreas.

The evidence review on which the guidelines are based says alcohol’s purported protective health benefits have been “substantially overestimated”.

One benefit is a protective effect against ischaemic heart disease. But this applies only to women aged 55 or older, particularly those who limit their intake to around five units a week.

Last Reviewed: 12 January 2016
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BMJ 2016;352:i109


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