Women urged to be aware of links between alcohol consumption and increased breast cancer risk

Almost half of the women surveyed were drinking weekly during lockdown

Women urged to be aware of links between alcohol consumption and increased breast cancer risk

Drinkaware, the national charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse in Ireland, is urging women to be aware of the link between alcohol consumption and increased breast cancer risk.

The call comes in response to a new report from the National Cancer Registry Ireland finding that one-third of all cancers in Ireland could be prevented by lifestyle changes.

Drinkaware’s Alcohol & Covid-19 Barometer, conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes in April 2020, revealed that 28% of women reported drinking more (vs 22% of men) and almost half (48%) were drinking weekly during lockdown. For context, 37% of women reported weekly drinking in 2018 as published last year in the Drinkaware Index report.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Drinkaware has three tips to support women to understand their drinking habits and make changes to protect health and wellbeing:

  1. Drink less alcohol: Limiting how much you drink is advised to reduce the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer. If you drink alcohol, don’t exceed the low-risk weekly guideline. This is less than 11 standard drinks for women in a week, the equivalent of approx. one bottle of wine and three longneck bottles of beer. Have at least two alcohol-free days in the week.
  2. Don’t binge (6+ standard drinks in one sitting): as the liver can only process one standard drink per hour.
    Use a measure at home: Free pouring makes it almost impossible to know how much you’re really drinking. With home drinking on the rise during Covid-19, use a measure for spirits and wine. Order one for free at www.drinkaware.ie
  3. Be sober curious: Stock up on alcohol-free alternatives. Cutting out alcohol entirely is one of 12 actions from the WHO European Code Against Cancer that we can take to be healthier and boost cancer prevention.

“The new National Cancer Registry Ireland report on modifiable risk factors for cancer highlights the need for greater awareness of the link between alcohol intake and developing some forms of cancer, including breast cancer. As the national charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse, our work is focused on supporting greater understanding of alcohol’s impact on health," commented Sheena Horgan, Drinkaware CEO.

"Sadly, 1 in 10 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and it is the most common cancer in women in Ireland. Drinking alcohol doesn’t mean you will develop breast cancer – but it does mean the risk is higher. Everyone is different. And while there are many causes of breast cancer, lifestyle changes like cutting down or cutting out alcohol, is an action within our control to reduce our risk.

"The Healthy Ireland Survey found that 73% of women are not aware that drinking more than the low-risk weekly guidelines can increase breast cancer risk. And our research shows that 98% of adults in Ireland are not aware of the low-risk weekly guidelines. If we want to reduce alcohol-related harm to health, we need to ensure more women are aware of both.

"Women are, however, willing to change. 1 in 5 report wanting to drink less and 27% have already taken steps to do this during lockdown. A consistent 65% of visits to www.drinkaware.ie are women so there are encouraging signs, and clearly an appetite for supports to change drinking habits.

"Breast Cancer Awareness Month gives us the chance to put the focus on women’s health, and to support each other and renew our collective efforts to reduce the impact of alcohol misuse. We need to empower women to explore healthier habits and coping strategies that don’t involve alcohol, and encourage them to seek support, advice and tips at www.drinkaware.iewww.hse.ie and www.mariekeatingfoundation.ie. ”

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