Links between alcohol and cancer highlighted in new guidance for health workers

Updated guidelines on alcohol and cancer risks have been released (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archives)

The link between alcohol and cancer has been highlighted in updated guidelines for healthcare professionals.

The guide, published by Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), notes that alcohol consumption is a risk factor for several cancers.

About 6.5% of deaths in Scotland in 2015 (the last time these figures were calculated) were attributable to alcohol consumption, and more than a quarter (28%) of these alcohol-attributable deaths were due to cancer, as directed.

It suggests that healthcare professionals can help reduce alcohol-related cancer risks by educating patients about alcohol-related cancer risks and providing counseling and support to help people reduce their alcohol consumption.

We hope this publication can be used as a tool to help educate healthcare professionals

Dr. Alastair MacGilchrist

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, President of SHAAP, said: “There is clear evidence that alcohol increases the risk of developing a multitude of types of cancer.

“Alcohol harm is one of the biggest health problems in Scotland, and healthcare professionals have the opportunity to educate their patients about the risks between alcohol and cancer and thereby reduce the risk that these patients develop alcohol-related cancers and other alcohol-related harms.

“These updated guidelines provide healthcare professionals with a summary of the relationship between alcohol and cancer, establish drinking patterns and alcohol-related harm in Scotland by age, sex and socio- economic, and describe the different ways of treating and preventing harmful or dangerous diseases. alcohol consumption.

“We hope this publication can be used as a tool to help educate healthcare professionals, mitigate alcohol-attributable cancer risk, and support people with alcohol-related problems.”

SHAAP is a partnership between the Medical Royal Colleges of Scotland and the Faculty of Public Health and is based at the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh.

The guidance notes indicate that male drinkers are twice as likely to drink above the recommended maximum of 14 units per week as female drinkers.

In 2019, consumption levels exceeding the recommended weekly limit were 32% for men compared to 16% for women.

He also pointed out that average weekly levels of self-reported alcohol consumption tend to be higher in wealthier groups.

For cancer prevention, we recommend not drinking alcohol at all

World Cancer Research Fund

In 2019, the prevalence of hazardous and harmful drinking levels was highest among those living in the least deprived areas of Scotland (30%) and lowest among those living in the most deprived areas (17%).

However, the highest levels of hospital admissions and alcohol-related deaths were seen in the most socioeconomically deprived areas.

According to Britain’s Chief Medical Officers Low Risk Drinking Guidelines 2016, when it comes to cancer risk, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.

Risks associated with cancer begin with any level of regular alcohol consumption and increase with the amount of alcohol consumed.

Matthew Lambert, Head of Information and Health Promotion at the World Cancer Research Fund, said: “We welcome this updated advice for healthcare professionals in Scotland, especially as it play a vital role in reducing alcohol-related cancers.

“For cancer prevention, we recommend not drinking alcohol at all. If people choose to drink alcohol, UK guidelines for men and women are to drink no more than 14 units per week, spread over at least three days.

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