Sobering Cancer Study Gives Alcohol Guidelines a Makeover

December 8, 2020 Updated: December 9, 2020

In light of growing evidence of the link between cancer and alcohol use, the 2009 version of the alcohol guidelines have been revised, just in time for the festive season. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) encouraged Australians to keep the new rules in mind, and have no more than ten standard drinks per week.

Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee Clare Hughes said Cancer Council supported and commended the changes.

“If Australians reduced their alcohol intake in line with the new guidelines, this would make a big impact in reducing the 3500 cancers currently caused by alcohol across the nation each year,” Hughes said in a media release.

“The alcohol industry is focused on getting Australians drinking more. However, the evidence is clear; drinking is not good for your health.”

refusing alcohol
(Alexey Lysenko/Shutterstock)

The new guidelines follow a recent study which was published in the British Journal of Cancer in October, and is the most extensive investigation into alcohol and its influence on cancer in Australia.

The study found that one drink a day raises the risk of alcohol-related cancers by 10 percent.

Lead author of the research Peter Sarich reiterated that “there’s now very strong Australian evidence that the more you drink, the higher your cancer risk will be.”

There is strong scientific evidence that alcohol drinking can cause several types of cancer, with studies showing even light drinkers who have no more than one drink per day have an increased risk of cancers of the breast, mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, stomach, and bowel.

Chair of Cancer Council Australia Anita Dessaix has commended the NHMRC for their rigorous and evidence-driven approach to revising the guidelines, which reflect the heightened risks associated with drinking alcohol.

“For the guidelines to be effective, we need to ensure Australians understand them. There is a lot of work needed to raise awareness, with just 16 percent of Australians aware of the link between alcohol and breast cancer,” Dessaix said.

The new guidelines, which can be accessed on the NHMRC website, also provide clearer recommendations to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. It now explicitly states that those under 18 years of age, women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning a pregnancy should not drink.

A guideline that remains unchanged is that men and women should drink no more than four standard drinks on any one day.