Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – A major European study, published 8 April in the British Journal of Medicine, says that people who drink more than two units or “standard drinks” a day for men and more than one for women are at greater risk of developing alcohol-related cancers.
The study followed 363,988 men and women, ages 30-75, in eight countries, to assess their risk of developing cancer. It covered drinkers in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.
A standard glass is about 125 ml, or a little over a Swiss one decilitre glass, but as defined in the article: “two drinks a day for men with about 24 g alcohol, one for women with about 12 g alcohol”.
The BBC reports that in Britain National Health Service “guidelines are a little more relaxed, saying that men should drink no more than three to four units a day while women should not go above two to three units a day.”
Switzerland carried out a survey in 2010 showing that up to 18 percent of the Swiss population may be at risk of excessive drinking. The overall figure hides changing habits, with consumption falling steadily in recent years for the population as a whole, but certain groups, notably young men 15-25 increasing consumption and switching from wine to beer and spirits, according to Addiction Info Suisse, a Lausanne-based group that earns 20 percent of its revenue from carrying out research for the Swiss government.
Higher consumption linked to four main cancers
The report’s findings show varying incidences of cancer:
“10% (95% confidence interval 7 to 13%) and 3% (1 to 5%) of the incidence of total cancer was attributable to former and current alcohol consumption in the selected European countries. For selected cancers the figures were 44% (31 to 56%) and 25% (5 to 46%) for upper aerodigestive tract, 33% (11 to 54%) and 18% (−3 to 38%) for liver, 17% (10 to 25%) and 4% (−1 to 10%) for colorectal cancer for men and women, respectively, and 5.0% (2 to 8%) for female breast cancer.”
The Guardian cites one expert who suggests the figures are low, since they reflect people’s drinking habits 10 years ago and people in the UK have increased their alcohol consumption.
Discussions in Switzerland have included the value of increased wine education to help consumers better understand how to enjoy alcohol without abusing it, I wrote in GenevaLunch in 2010, in the wake of French debates over banning advertising for alcohol.