Dying for a drink – third of Sunderland adults risking their lives through overindulgence

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Shock figures have revealed that more than a third of Sunderland’s adults are risking their lives by boozing too much.

A staggering 37.2% of the city’s adults are ignoring Government health guidelines and are drinking more than the recommended daily alcohol limit.

These are 2-3 units for a woman – no more than a standard 175ml glass of wine – or 3-4 units for a man, which is a pint of strong lager.

The figures, which have been released by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, tie in with their new campaign to raise awareness of the link between alcohol and seven cancers including mouth, pharyngeal (upper throat), oesophageal (food pipe), laryngeal (voice box), bowel cancer, breast and liver.

Coun John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, culture and wellness at Sunderland City Council, says the campaign is a stark reminder on the dangers of drinking.

He said: “As we can all see from these figures, and as many of us know, excessive alcohol use is a major issue across our region.

“This campaign, with the longer days and shorter nights, plus many people taking their summer holidays, is a timely reminder of the dangers and increased risks that come with excessive alcohol consumption.

“The city council and its health partners are also continuing to remind people through campaigns such as Stay Sober and Dry January that taking a break from alcohol and consuming less is good for your long-term health. Balance’s alcohol and cancer campaign is a stark reminder on the dangers of drinking too much.” Starting today, Balance will have a new hard-hitting advert appearing on television screens over the next four week.

The advert features a woman enjoying lunch and a glass of wine with her partner when she spills some of her drink on her top. The stain changes to show a growing tumour on her breast.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “It’s important for people to realise that it’s not just heavy drinkers at risk, there is no safe level of alcohol and the more a person drinks, the greater the risk.

“For many of us, the idea that alcohol can cause cancer is hard to accept.

“This comes as no surprise as low alcohol pricing, widespread availability and mass promotion has suggested alcohol is harmless.

“But it’s not.”

Higher risk of getting cancer

Evidence shows that if an adult regularly drinks above the guidelines the risk of developing cancer is higher than non-drinkers.

Men are 1.8 to 2.5 times as likely to get cancer of the mouth, neck and throat, and women are 1.2 to 1.7 times as likely.

Women are 1.2 times as likely to get breast cancer.

Men are twice as likely to develop liver cirrhosis, and women are 1.7 times as likely.

Bowel cancer risk is 21% higher in people who drink around 1.5 to 6 units per day.

However, more than 9 in 10 people in the region who regularly drink above the recommended limits believe they are light or moderate drinkers.

Mr Shevills said: “It’s worrying to learn that so many people in the region are drinking above the recommended limits. This is even more of a concern when you consider the fact that a large majority of high or increasing risk drinkers believe they actually drink at moderate levels.

“It’s easy for us underestimate how much we drink but by raising awareness of the hidden harms associated with alcohol we hope encourage people to think about their intake and, if necessary, cut back to help reduce their risk of cancer.”