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No such thing as ‘a safe drink’

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When it comes to booze, there’s no such thing as a safe amount.  Even ‘light’ drinkers—drinking no more than two glasses of wine a day—increase their risk for several cancers.

One in seven new cancers—that’s 100,000 cancers worldwide—happen to light to moderate drinkers, says the World Health Organization (WHO).  Breast, colon and oral cancers are the most common among drinkers.

But is alcohol causing the cancer?  Kevin Shield, from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, thinks it does.  “Alcohol causes cancer in numerous ways.  The main mechanism is through impairing DNA repair.  Additional pathways include chronic alcohol consumption resulting in liver cirrhosis and alcohol leads to a dysregulation of sex hormones, which can cause breast cancer.”

The research, based on computer models that assessed drinking levels and relative cancer risks around the world, puts paid to the myth of ‘safe drinking’, he says, and governments should be imposing higher taxes on all alcoholic drinks.  

Even drinking one standard glass of wine raises the risk of breast cancer by 6 percent, says co-author Jurgen Rehm.  

Recent lockdowns to curb Covid’s spread have increased the cancer risk, with people drinking more at home.   

(Source: Lancet Oncology, 2021; doi: 10.106/S1470-2045(21)00279-5)

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