Drinkers warned that any alcohol carries a cancer risk

New advice suggests people should drink no more than 14 units a week

Alcohol, cancer risk, health, units, warning, UK, Sally Davies

File photo of wine being poured | Image: Paul Harding / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Drinkers are being warned that any alcohol carries an increased risk of cancer.

New advice in the UK suggests men and women should drink no more than 14 units a week.

That is around six pints of beer or five standard glasses of wine.

England's chief medical officer, Sally Davies, said: "Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone, but if men and women limit their intake to no more than 14 units a week, it keeps the risk of illness like cancer and liver disease low".

"What we are aiming to do with these guidelines is give the public the latest and most up-to-date scientific information so that they can make informed decisions about their own drinking and the level of risk they are prepared to take".

A bottle of wine contains about 10 units, while a pint of beer equates to 2.3 units.

Meanwhile, fresh evidence suggests that consuming alcohol does not protect the body against heart disease as effectively as once thought.

Only women over the age of 55 may experience positive health effects when alcohol is drunk in small amounts, and there is no benefit to men whatsoever.

Increased chance of developing cancer

The report also warns that the risks of getting cancer "start from any level of regular drinking and rise with the amount being drunk".

Even consumption at low levels is linked to cancers of the lip, oral cavity, pharynx, oesophagus and breast.

At higher levels, there is an increased danger of developing bowel and liver cancer.

Modelling for the study shows that, compared with non-drinkers, women who drink two units a day on a regular basis have a 16% increased chance of developing breast cancer and dying from it.

Those who regularly consume five units a day have a 40% increased risk.

Among non-drinking men, 64 in every 1,000 will develop bowel cancer, and this stays the same for those drinking 14 units or fewer per week.

However, in men drinking 15 to 35 units per week, there is an 85 in 1,000 chance they will contract the illness.

The report said drinking regularly over time can lead to a wide range of illnesses including cancers, strokes, heart disease, liver disease, and damage to the brain and nervous system.

Liver specialist at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, Professor Ian Gilmore, helped draw up the UK guidelines.

He says they alone will not solve issues people have with alcohol.