Campaign warns of unseen health damage caused by alcohol misuse

In collaboration with Adfero

A government-funded advertising campaign launching today, backed by Cancer Research UK and other major health charities, aims to raise awareness of the unseen health damage caused by regular alcohol misuse.

The £6 million campaign is part of the cross-government strategy to tackle alcohol-related harm and shows the damage caused to a person's organs while drinking in a pub or at home.

Research published to coincide with the launch of the campaign, which includes TV, press and outdoor adverts, suggests that most Britons do not fully understand the dangers of alcohol misuse.

A YouGov poll of 2,023 adults found that 55 per cent of drinkers believe alcohol is only harmful if a person regularly gets drunk or binge drinks.

The majority (83 per cent) of those who regularly exceed NHS guideline limits did not realise their drinking was putting their long-term health at risk.

This means that, with an estimated ten million adults in England regularly exceeding the recommended limits, around 8.3 million people are unaware of the damage they may be causing to their bodies.

The research also highlighted widespread ignorance about the serious conditions that are linked to excessive alcohol consumption.

Public Health Minister Gillian Merron said: "Many of us enjoy a drink - drinking sensibly isn't a problem. But, if you're regularly drinking more than the NHS recommended limits, you're more likely to get cancer, have a stroke or have a heart attack.

"With alcohol misuse damaging so many people's health and lives, the government has teamed up with Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and the Stroke Association to produce this straight talking campaign. It's important to show drinkers the unseen damage alcohol can do to their body."

While 86 per cent of drinkers realised the link between drinking alcohol and liver disease, awareness was far lower for other diseases, including breast cancer (seven per cent), throat cancer (25 per cent) and mouth cancer (28 per cent).

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, commented: "We know from decades of research that alcohol can increase the risk of several cancers, including cancers of the breast, bowel, liver, mouth, foodpipe, throat and voicebox.

"Scientists estimate that alcohol is responsible for around 9,000 cancer deaths every year in the UK."

Sara Hiom explained that alcohol is converted into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde by the body, and this chemical can lead to cancer by damaging DNA and stopping cells from repairing this damage.

"Alcohol can also increase levels of oestrogen and unusually high levels of oestrogen can increase the risk of breast cancer," she noted.

"The simple message is that the more you drink the greater your cancer risk, but the more you cut down the more you reduce that risk."