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We are supporting the Balance Alcohol is Toxic campaign

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If you drink alcohol, how do your drinks add up? Are they putting your health at risk?

Most of us know smoking causes cancer. But just like tobacco, alcohol is toxic. Alcohol is a Group One carcinogen which causes at least seven types of cancer including bowel, breast, mouth and throat cancer.

Nearly 500 adults in the North East are dying each year from cancers due to alcohol. The figures have been revealed as a powerful new campaign aimed at reducing alcohol harm in the region launches today Monday 13 November 2023.

Balance is launching the "Alcohol is Toxic" campaign supported by Cancer Research UK and local authorities to warn alcohol is a direct cause of 7 types of cancer [i] - including bowel, breast, liver throat and mouth cancer.

Only 1 in 3 people in the North East are aware that alcohol causes cancer and yet nearly half (47%) of adults are drinking above the Chief Medical Officers' guidelines of no more than 14 units a week - enough to significantly raise their risks [ii].

It also comes as the UK topped global charts for binge drinking among women [iii] - defined as having at least six drinks in a single session - with 26% doing this at least once a month.

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Just one or two drinks a day can increase the risk of cancer. Any type of alcohol is carcinogenic, whether beer, wine or spirits.

The best way to reduce your risk is to cut down how much and how often you drink drinking:

  • Drink no more than 14 units a week to stay "low risk" (about six glasses of wine, six double spirits or six pints of lager a week) spread out over several days.
  • Take at least three drink free days a week to give your body a break.

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Please visit the ReduceMyRisk.tv website to find free advice and tools to cut down and links to local alcohol support services.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: "Unlike tobacco, alcohol products don't have warnings about cancer or the other health risks on the label. But alcohol is a known Group One carcinogen - and to humans it is toxic.

"2 out of 3 people in the North East are not even aware alcohol causes cancer but we know there is strong support to have more information. People have a right to know alcohol is harmful to health.

"The alcohol industry does not want their customers to know this health information. That is why campaigns like this are a vital part of enabling people to make more informed decisions and need to be part of effective national action. It is unacceptable that there hasn't been a national alcohol strategy since 2012."

In 2019/20 there were almost 980,000 hospital admissions nationally where the primary reason or a secondary diagnosis was linked to alcohol - a 4% rise on 2018/19 (broad measure). This represents 5.7% of all hospital admissions and includes:

  • 435,000 admissions for cardiovascular disease
  • 227,000 admissions for mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol
  • 93,000 admissions due to cancer
  • 74,000 admissions for liver disease

As well as cancer, drinking regularly can also damage the liver and raise our risk of heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension) and stroke. It can lead to us gaining weight and increase the risk of anxiety and depression.

'Every aspect of my emergency care was dealt with quickly, efficiently and professionally with full explanations and compassion from all staff involved'.

Patient, Emergency Department, Darlington Memorial Hospital