In Australia, both children and adults are regularly exposed to advertisements that depict alcohol consumption as fun, social and affordable—particularly as alcohol retailers encourage purchasing larger quantities as value for money options.
In a study by Pettigrew et al in 2012, during a two-month period, one in 10 beverage advertisements aired in Australia’s major cities were for alcohol. Such ads and marketing campaigns are reinforcing existing cultural norms that promote a drinking culture that exceeds amounts within the national alcohol guidelines. Despite the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifying alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen in 1988 (over 30 years ago!)—the public perception that drinking alcohol is a ‘normal’ and ‘safe’ aspect of life, remains.
Further to this, alcohol companies market products as healthier or better for you (such as low carbohydrate, low calorie, no sugar/low sugar, gluten free, natural ingredients, etc.) but fail to address the risks of drinking alcohol itself.
Why is this a problem?
As mentioned above, the reality is that alcohol is a Group 1 carcinogen—the highest category available. This means it is an acknowledged cause of cancer. Even small amounts directly increase the risk of cancer; including cancer of the bowel, breast, mouth and pharynx, liver, larynx, oesophagus and stomach.
The alcohol industry is essentially working against health messages, which is why we are encouraging all South Australians to learn the facts to make more informed decisions.
So, what are the facts?
For those who decide to drink, drinking no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than four on any one day, will result in a lifetime risk of less than one in 100 chance of dying from an alcohol-related condition. But keep in mind: your cancer risk in particular is reduced by drinking less often and having less drinks on each occasion, or better still, not drinking at all.
Additionally, when it comes to dietary recommendations, alcohol is a discretionary component of the diet as it is energy dense and nutrient poor. Drinking alcohol regularly can make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight, and being above a healthy weight can also increase your risk of 13 types of cancer.
Looking to reduce your alcohol consumption?
If you’re looking to reduce your alcohol consumption, and in turn your cancer risk, here are a few of our top tips:
- Choose a non-alcoholic drink—such as sparkling water with fresh lemon or lime.
- Limit alcohol to special occasions and avoid binge drinking.
- Use water to quench thirst.
- Opt for low-alcohol drinks, or dilute alcoholic drinks with sparkling water or juice. Why not check out our in-house favourite healthy Berry Spritz Mocktail Recipe here.
- Choose a mocktail instead—but be cautious of mixers as they can be high in calories.
- Set yourself a limit and stop once you have reached it.
- Have alcohol free days each week.
- Order beer and cider in a smaller glass e.g. a South Australian ‘schooner’ or ‘butcher’ rather than a pint.
- Alternate alcohol drinks with non-alcoholic drinks, such as sparkling water.
- Find alternative ways outside of pubs to catch up with friends e.g. go for coffee instead, organise a walk, tennis or cricket match.
To find out more about how alcohol and other lifestyle factors can affect your cancer risk, visit https://www.cancersa.org.au/prevention/lifestyle-factors/. Or, if you’re looking to reduce your risk and make a difference to South Australians affected by cancer, why not go alcohol-free for a month by signing up to Dry July? Register or find out more here: https://www.dryjuly.com/cancercouncil