Men’s Health Week 2018: Alcohol and Cancer

Men’s Health Week 2018: Alcohol and Cancer

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Men’s Health Week 2018 takes place from 11th to 17th June and we are delighted to support this important initiative, which aims to:

  • Heighten awareness of preventable health problems for males of all ages.
  • Support men and boys to engage in healthier lifestyle choices / activities.
  • Encourage the early detection and treatment of health difficulties in males.

We are proud to join the call to ask men one simple question: What’s your small step to improve your health and wellbeing going to be? There are many positive steps you could take but we are encouraging men to reduce their weekly alcohol consumption. Throughout Men’s Health Week, we will be empowering men across the country to take small steps to drink less alcohol by highlighting some of the different impacts alcohol can have and the positive changes you can make.

Alcohol and Cancer

According to the Marie Keating Foundation, 1 in 3 men in Ireland will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. But did you know that 4 in 10 cancers are preventable? Alcohol is known to cause at least seven different types of cancer. Any amount increases the cancer risk. Even just one drink a day will increase the risk of mouth, throat and oesophageal (foodpipe) cancers by a small amount. Here are some cancer statistics specific to men in Ireland:

  • Over 3,400 men in Ireland are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.
  • Over 1,440 Irish men are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year.
  • Nearly 1,300 men are diagnosed with lung cancer every year in Ireland.
  • Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men aged 15-34.

If you drink and smoke, your cancer risk increases. Why? Alcohol makes it easier for other harmful chemicals, such as those found in tobacco smoke, to enter the cells lining the mouth, throat, larynx (voicebox) and oesophagus (foodpipe). This is why the combination of smoking and drinking is much more likely to cause these cancers than either smoking or drinking alone.

Evidence shows being overweight or obese increases the risk of some cancers including bowel, pancreatic and gallbladder. Alcohol has a high calorie content but these are ‘empty calories’ with no nutritional value or benefit. What many people don’t realise however, is that alcohol can also contain a lot of sugar. Drinking regularly will increase your calorie and sugar intake so it’s a good idea to get the facts on the amounts of each in alcohol.

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. Take small steps to drink less to help lower your cancer risk.

Read more about alcohol, calories and sugar

Think about your drinking

Think honestly about your drinking habits and ask yourself some questions. How much do you drink in a regular week or month? Maybe you have noticed you are drinking alone more often than before or you are finding more reasons to drink alcohol. Has your drinking started to affect your work? Perhaps you haven’t worked out as much lately due to alcohol. Now ask yourself if you could drink less. You are not alone – 1 in 3 men in Ireland would like to drink less alcohol. The good news is that this is easier than you might think and small changes to how you drink can make a big difference.

Order our free Get the Facts information pack

Know the guidelines

Are you drinking within the HSE low-risk guidelines for alcohol consumption? Less than 3% of Irish adults can correctly identify the guidelines but they are important to know and can help you to see how much you are really drinking over the week. Remember, these are guidelines - not a target.

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

Common examples of one standard drink are a half pint of lager/stout/cider, a 100ml glass of wine or pub measure (35.5ml) of spirits. This means a man’s weekly guidelines is roughly eight pints of beer, which is less than many people think. On average, it takes one hour for the body to process one standard drink and there's no quick fix - only time.

Try our Drinks Calculator to see if you are drinking within the guidelines

Make small changes to drink less

Stuck for ideas? Here are some small steps you could take to drink less alcohol. Remember, everyone’s motivation for drinking less is different so it’s important to choose small steps that work for you.

  • Stay out of rounds – you may end up drinking far more than you intended as you are more likely to drink at the pace of the fastest person in the group.
  • Set yourself a limit on a night out. If you usually go for an after-work drink on a Friday, why not set a limit on the number of drinks you will have in advance? Keeping this number in mind will help you to keep track and stick to it.
  • Alternate each drink with a glass of water to reduce the dehydration associated with alcohol. Keep a jug of water on the table to make this easier.
  • Always use a standard drink measure: never free-pour spirits or wine. Order one for free
  • Never top up your wine glass – always finish one glass before refilling. Topping up your glass makes it harder to track how much you’re drinking.
  • Take advantage of the increasingly available lower or no-alcohol beer or wine and swap out your usual drink.
  • Break your habits at home. This can seem like a nice way to unwind after a long day but it can often result in drinking more than usual. If your normal night in includes a drink in front of the TV, consider doing something different like going for a walk or try not to keep alcohol in the house.
  • If you would like to stop drinking completely, we have some advice to help.

Find out more about Men's Health Week