It's no secret that many of us enjoy a good drink from time to time, but it's important to remember that alcohol is not without risks, especially when it comes to cancer.
In partnership with the Ministry of Health, BC Cancer is launching a province-wide Proof campaign to raise awareness of the cancer risk associated with alcohol. It's based on the latest scientific evidence (aka the proof) linking alcohol consumption to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, liver, and head and neck cancer.
Alcohol is linked to nearly 7,000 cancer cases in Canada each year. And yet, many Canadians don't know that alcohol can cause cancer.
"We often don't think about alcohol in the same way we do other substances that we know are harmful, like tobacco, but the evidence is clear. Even low levels of alcohol consumption—one drink per day—increases the risk of certain types of cancer," said Dr. Rachel Murphy, scientist at BC Cancer and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia.
"It's also clear that it's never too late to make changes. Any reduction in alcohol use, no matter how small, can be beneficial," added Dr. Murphy.
The Proof encourages adults to be mindful of their alcohol consumption and to adopt harm reduction strategies to reduce their cancer risk. The website, the-proof.ca, provides tips, information and resources for those looking to reduce their alcohol consumption, including delicious recipes for zero-proof cocktails. The website also features a handy standard drinks calculator to help people take the guesswork out of how much they may be consuming in an average week.
"One of the challenges with alcohol is that it's not always easy to know how much you're actually drinking. Drinks come in different sizes and some are stronger than others," said Dr. Cheryl Peters, senior scientist for cancer prevention at BC Cancer and BC Centre for Disease Control. "We know that people often underestimate the amount of alcohol they're consuming, so having an easy-to-use calculator will be a great resource for those looking to make more informed decisions about their drinking."
Whether it's alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks or setting limits on how much they consume, there are many ways that people can reduce their risk of harm.
"It's really about giving people the tools they need to put this information in the broader context of other decisions they're making, and fully understand the potential risks involved with drinking alcohol," explained Dr. Peters.
The campaign comes hot on the heels of Canada's recent update to its Guidance on Alcohol and Health released earlier this year. The guidelines suggest that the risk of harm is low for those who have two standard drinks or less per week. As consumption goes up from there, so do the health risks.
The recommendations are based on a two-year research project, led by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, which looked at nearly 6,000 peer-reviewed studies and involved an expert panel of 23 scientists as well as public consultations.
The key take-away from this project is that when it comes to alcohol, drinking less is better.
"It's not something that will change overnight, and that's okay. Having one drink instead of two or taking a few days off a week can be really great ways to reduce your cancer risk," said Dr. Peters.
If you need help with your drinking or you're worried about a loved one who may be struggling, talk with a health care provider or call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 (toll-free).
You can also visit the-proof.ca/reduce-your-risk for a list of resources and services in B.C.
- Visit the-proof.ca to learn more about the campaign and explore its resources.
- Use the hashtag #LowerProofLife to join in on the conversation.
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