One in five breast cancers linked to alcohol

03 May, 2011

New Cancer Council analysis published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows the level of cancer incidence caused by alcohol in Australia is higher than previously thought, with more than 5000 new cases each year linked to long-term drinking.

Applying the latest international data to Australia, the analysis estimated that 22 per cent of the nation's breast cancer cases were linked to alcohol consumption. It also factored in new evidence linking alcohol to bowel cancer in men.

Cancer Council Australia CEO and a co-author of the analysis, Professor Ian Olver, said community awareness of the links between alcohol and cancer should be raised so people could make more informed lifestyle choices to help minimise their cancer risk.

"We have known for some time that alcohol is a major risk factor for breast cancer, but only by applying international data to Australian drinking patterns were we able to estimate that more than one in five cases here are linked to alcohol," Professor Olver said.

"Factor in the new evidence on bowel cancer in men and the established links to cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and liver, and alcohol is clearly one of the most carcinogenic products in common use."

Professor Olver said the impact on breast cancer was a particular concern, as there were few other steps women could take to minimise their risk.

"A lot of effort goes into raising breast cancer awareness, but how many Australian women are aware that reducing alcohol consumption is one of the best ways to reduce their breast cancer risk?" he said.

Professor Olver said the dose-response relationship meant the risk of alcohol-related cancer increased with every drink consumed.

"The more alcohol you consume over time, the higher your risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer.

"So if individuals do choose to drink, our advice is to do so in accordance with the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines, which recommend no more than two standard drinks a day."

Source: AAP Medianet