Change4Life warns of cancer risk from drinking 'a little too much'

In collaboration with the Press Association

People are at risk from serious illness including cancer, heart disease and stroke if they drink just slightly more than they should, Andrew Lansley has warned.

The Health Secretary was speaking at the launch of the nationwide Change4Life campaign which tells the public that drinking just a little bit over the lower-risk alcohol guidelines can seriously impair long-term health.

The campaign was welcomed by Cancer Research UK, which said major benefits can be achieved by small lifestyle changes such as having a few designated alcohol-free days each week.

A Change4Life TV ad highlights the risk associated with regularly drinking two large glasses of wine or two strong pints of beer a day, which triples the risk of developing mouth cancer and doubles the risk of developing high blood pressure.

Heightened awareness of the risks linked to drinking more than the NHS recommends is urgently required, according to the findings of a new survey.

It found that 85 per cent of people do not realise it increases the risk of developing breast cancer; 66 per cent are not aware of its link to bowel cancer and 63 per cent do not realise it raises the chances of developing pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

The poll also revealed that 59 per cent do not realise it increases the risk of mouth, throat and neck cancer; 37 per cent do not realise it reduces fertility; and 30 per cent are not aware that it increases the risk of high blood pressure.

The Change4Life website features an online calculator to help people check how much they are drinking and work out whether they need to cut down.

The campaign advocates having alcohol-free days, not drinking at home before an evening out and switching to smaller glasses or low-alcohol drinks.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davis said: "Drinking too much is a major public health issue. This campaign highlights how easy it can be to use a glass of wine or beer to unwind at the end of a busy day but these drinks stack up and can increase your risk of high blood pressure, cancer or liver disease.

"The campaign with its new online calculator is available on the Change4Life website to help and encourage people to check how much they are drinking and, if they find they are drinking over the guidelines, help them cut down."

Sarah Lyness, executive director of policy and information at Cancer Research UK, said: "Alcohol can increase the risk of seven types of cancer, including two of the most common kinds - breast and bowel cancers.

"A recent study showed that nearly 12,500 cancers in the UK each year are caused by alcohol.

"The risk of cancer starts to go up even at quite low levels of drinking, but the more people cut back on alcohol, the more they can reduce the risk.

"Small changes can really make a difference, so try swapping a glass of wine or beer for a soft drink or having a few alcohol-free days a week."

Copyright Press Association 2012