Alcohol cut back

A man drinking a pint of beer.
A man drinking a pint of beer.

Cutting down on food and booze is a tried and tested way to restore health and wellbeing after Christmas.

But while food can’t be cut out completely, alcohol certainly can - and both Alcohol Concern and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) are urging drinkers to abstain for the whole of January, for Alcohol Concern’s Dry January and CRUK’s Dryathlon.

The initiatives aren’t aimed at alcoholics, but at social drinkers - those who regularly drink a little too much. It’s hoped that a month off will help them think more about the amount they drink, and its effect on their health, finances and weight.

Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of seven types of cancer, yet Alcohol Concern has conducted a survey which showed a worrying lack of awareness about illnesses associated with boozing.

The survey of more than 2,000 UK adults found that, while many understood the relationship between alcohol and liver disease, 66 per cent didn’t know about the link with bowel cancer, 59 per cent were unaware of the connection between alcohol and stroke, and 58 per ent didn’t know that drinking is linked with an increased risk of mouth and throat cancer.

Emily Robinson, director of campaigns at Alcohol Concern, warns that more than 60 medical conditions are linked to alcohol.

She says: “Dry January’s aimed at people who don’t have an alcohol problem but who might be drinking a bit too much, too often - those who easily reach for that bottle of wine after coming home from work.”

Although it’s clear that the risks increase the more a person drinks, a 2012 review of more than 200 studies by Italian researchers, found that people who consumed about 1.5 units (or one small drink) a day had increased risks of mouth and upper throat, oesophagus and breast cancers.

But, as the Alcohol Health Alliance points out, there are many other ways to reduce this risk - like not smoking, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet - which aren’t also associated with an increased risk of cancer.

Robinson adds: “We’re not telling people to give up drinking forever.

“It’s about having a break to think about your drinking.”