‘Strong evidence’: The popular drink shown to increase the risk of bowel cancer – warning

Dr Hilary Jones discusses bowel cancer awareness acronym

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Cancer kills a colossal number of people each year – the deadly disease accounted for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020. Despite its lethality, efforts to understand what drives it are underway. A number of risk factors have been identified.

Alcohol consumption has found been to increase the risk of a range of cancers.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) analysed global research on how consuming alcoholic drinks affects the risk of developing cancer.

According to the AICR, there is “strong evidence” that alcohol consumption increases the risk of bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK.

According to findings analysed by the AICR, just three or more alcoholic drinks a day (45 grams or more) increases the risk.

The precise mechanisms underlying the relationship between alcohol consumption and certain cancers is not completely understood.

“A large body of experimental evidence has shown that acetaldehyde, the principal and most toxic metabolite of alcohol, disrupts DNA synthesis and repair and thus may contribute to a carcinogenic cascade,” reports the AICR.

What Cancer Research UK says

It has been estimated that around six out of 100 bowel cancers (around six percent) in the UK are linked to drinking alcohol.

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“Whatever your drinking habits, cutting down will reduce your risk,” advises the charity.

Regular or frequent drinking means drinking alcohol most days and weeks.

To keep your risk of alcohol-related harm low, men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis.

“If you drink as much as 14 units a week, it’s best to spread this evenly over three or more days,” advises the NHS.

Other bowel cancer risk factors

Many studies have shown that eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.

It is estimated that around 13 out of 100 bowel cancer cases (around 13 percent) in the UK are linked to eating these meats.

Processed meat is any meat that has been treated to preserve it and/or add flavour – for example, bacon, salami, sausages, canned meat or chicken nuggets.

The Government recommends that people eating more than 90g of red and processed meat a day should reduce it to 70g or less.

Obesity is a cause of bowel cancer. It is estimated that 11 out of 100 bowel cancers (11 percent) in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese.

Obesity means being very overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. And being overweight is a BMI of between 25 and 30.

BMI is a measure of whether you’re a healthy weight for your height.

“The risk of bowel cancer is higher in people who are obese compared to those who have a healthy BMI,” warns Cancer Research UK.

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