Alcohol addiction is a major problem in the UK, with many people receiving treatment for this illness. However, a startling number of individuals never get the help they need because they simply do not realise they have a problem. Alcohol consumption is just a part of normal life for many, and countless individuals are unaware of the dangers of drinking more than the recommended weekly allowance.
Early in 2016, the Government issued new alcohol guidelines that saw the weekly limit for men reduced to bring it into line with the limit guidelines for women. Both men and women are now advised to drink no more than fourteen units of alcohol per week. A report from Public Health England at the time revealed that there is really no safe alcohol consumption level that will prevent some forms of cancer.
Nevertheless, a new report commissioned by Cancer Research UK has revealed that one in ten people in England just do not associate alcohol consumption with an increased risk of cancer, despite the warnings.
Alcohol consumption has been linked to an increase in a myriad of cancers, including bowel, liver, breast, mouth, oesophagus, throat, and larynx. When queried about the various health conditions that are linked to excessive alcohol consumption, only thirteen per cent of adults gave cancer as an answer.
Alcohol consumption has been linked to around four hundred cases of liver cancer every year while 3,200 cases of breast cancer can be associated with alcohol consumption. Nonetheless, when questioned about alcohol and cancer, eighty per cent of respondents were aware of a link to liver cancer, but only eighteen per cent knew that alcohol could be linked to breast cancer.
The findings show that there is an immediate need for greater public awareness of the link.
According to Cancer Research UK’s Alison Cox, who is director of cancer prevention, “The link between alcohol and cancer is now well established, and it’s not just heavy drinkers who are at risk. This is reflected in the new guidelines issued by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers that stated that the risk of developing a range of illnesses, including cancer, increased with any amount of alcohol you drink.”
She added that it was concerning that very few people understood the link between alcohol and the increased risk of seven different types of cancer. She believes that health campaigners need to make sure the public have clear information regarding the risks if there are to be any changes to drinking habits.
Lead author of the report, Dr Penny Buykx, said, “We’ve shown that public awareness of the increased cancer risk from drinking alcohol remains worryingly low. People link drinking and liver cancer, but most still don’t realise that cancers including breast cancer, mouth and throat cancers and bowel cancer are also linked with alcohol, and that risks for some cancers go up even by drinking a small amount.”
As well as being unaware that alcohol can lead to an increased risk of cancer, many individuals do not realise that alcohol is an addictive substance. While most people in the UK can drink alcohol in moderation, some regularly exceed the weekly limit; for these individuals, the risk of addiction is very high.
As the body becomes tolerant to the effects of alcohol, the person needs to drink more and more to get the same effects, thus increasing their risk of addiction and health problems such as cancer. It is a worrying trend and one that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
The fact that alcohol is a socially acceptable substance means that many people just cannot comprehend the dangers associated with it.