Two drinks per day can increase digestive cancer risk

Two drinks per day can increase digestive cancer risk

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A report from United European Gastroenterology (UEG) shows found that people who have two or more alcoholic drinks per day are at increased risk of developing a range of digestive cancers including bowel cancer. The report also found that Europe has the highest rate of alcohol consumption in the world with EU citizens consuming an average of two alcoholic drinks per day. Irish people drink 1.9 alcoholic drinks per day on average, compared with 2.1 in the UK and 1.3 in Italy.

Key findings

  • 1 drink per day increases the risk of oesophageal cancer
  • 1-4 drinks per day increases the risk of bowel cancer by 21%
  • 4 or more drinks per day increases the risk of gastric, pancreatic and liver cancers

According to the Irish Cancer Society, bowel cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Ireland with the latest figures showing that over 2,500 people are diagnosed every year. Around 1,000 people die from the disease annually, making it the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland. Four out of ten cancers are preventable and drinking less is just one of the ways you can reduce your risk.

Get the facts

It’s simple – the more you drink, the higher your cancer risk. Even just one drink a day will increase the risk of breast, mouth and throat cancers by a small amount. There’s no safe limit for alcohol when it comes to cancer, but the risk is smaller for people who drink within the HSE low-risk guidelines for alcohol consumption.

Latest figures from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) show a 300% rise in liver cancer diagnoses in Ireland in the past two decades. The average number of new cases each year has gone from 60 in the mid-1990s to more than 270 in 2014. The NCRI point to high alcohol consumption in recent decades as one of the biggest reasons for this four-fold increase.

Don’t exceed the guidelines

Keep any eye on how much you drink on average each week. Sticking to the HSE low-risk guidelines can help to reduce your risk of developing cancer and a range of other health conditions. Remember, these are guidelines - not a target. 

  • 11 standard drinks (110g pure alcohol) spread out over the week for women, with at least two alcohol-free days
  • 17 standard drinks (170g pure alcohol) spread out over the week for men, with at least two alcohol-free days

Take our quiz to find out if you are drinking within the guidelines

Make small changes

Drinkaware research from 2017 shows that 1 in 3 people in Ireland would like to drink less often. Small changes to the way you consume alcohol and how much you drink can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing both now and in the future. The next time you drink alcohol, why not try some of our quick tips?

  • If you usually drink pints of beer or cider, why not opt for a bottle or half pint instead?
  • Always use a measure: never free-pour spirits or wine. Order a free Standard Drink Measure Cup
  • Alcohol dehydrates the body. Alternating each drink with water will help keep you hydrated.
  • Swap out your usual full strength drink for a low-alcohol alternative.

Try out our drinks calculator to see the number of standard drinks and calories in different drinks, as well as how much money you spent and how long it will take the alcohol to leave your system.

Visit the Marie Keating Foundation website for more information on alcohol and cancer