New guidance on reducing alcohol risks

  • Date: 30 August 2016

DRINKING any amount of alcohol will increase the risk of developing a range of cancers, according to new guidance from the UK’s chief medical officers.

It warns there are risks with “any level of regular drinking” but this rises with the amount of alcohol consumed. Cancers commonly associated with drinking include mouth, throat, voice box, gullet, large bowel, liver, breast cancer in women and “probably also” pancreatic cancer.

To keep health risks at a low level, both men and women should regularly drink no more than 14 units a week and aim to have “several drink-free days each week”.

The advice is outlined in the new UK Chief Medical Officers’ Low Risk Drinking Guidelines, published after independent experts spent three and a half years considering the latest evidence on the health effects of alcohol.

It offers a weekly guideline on regular drinking, advice on single episodes of drinking and a guideline on pregnancy and drinking.

For those drinking up to the weekly limit of 14 units, the guidance advises this should be spread evenly over three or more days. It adds: "If you have one or two heavy drinking episodes a week, you increase your risks of death from long-term illness and from accidents and injuries."

When drinking on a single occasion, men and women are advised to limit the total amount of alcohol they consume, drink more slowly/with food and plan ahead to avoid problems (e.g. by ensuring they can get home safely.)

Common risks of drinking too much on a single occasion include accidents resulting in injury, misjudging risky situations and a loss of self-control. It adds: "Some groups of people are more likely to be affected by alcohol and should be more careful of their level of drinking on any one occasion for example those at risk of falls, those on medication that may interact with alcohol or where it may exacerbate pre-existing physical and mental health problems."

Women who are pregnant or think they could become pregnant are advised that the safest approach is not to drink at all. It adds: "The risk of harm to the baby is likely to be low if you have drunk only small amounts of alcohol before you knew you were pregnant or during pregnancy."

Read the full report here

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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