Healthy living

Drink weaker wines to cut cancer risk

Cancer charity urges switch to lower-alcohol wines

People who enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the day could cut their risk of some cancers by swapping to a lower alcohol alternative, a cancer charity says.

Hundreds of new cancer cases could be prevented each year if people who drink a large glass (250ml) of wine every day switched from a wine with an alcohol content of 14% to one containing 10%, according to calculations carried out by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

Drinking the weaker wine would reduce a daily wine drinkers risk of developing bowel cancer by 7%, said the charity. This would mean that for every 100 people who made the switch, five would develop bowel cancer instead of six.

More than 37,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, and an estimated 20,000 new cases of cancer are thought to be linked to alcohol.

Switching to a weaker wine could also cut someone's risk of other alcohol related cancers such as breast, liver, and oesophageal cancer, as well as cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx, said the charity.

The reduction in risk for each type of these cancers is thought to be similar to that for bowel cancer.

Dr Rachel Thompson, Science Programme Manager for WCRF, said: “From a cancer prevention point of view it is best not to drink at all. But we have to be realistic and the fact is that many people in the UK enjoy a drink and see it as part of their social life.

“If you drink quite a lot at the moment, the best advice is to reduce the number of drinks you have. But if people do not want to do this, switching to a lower alcohol alternative is still something positive they can do.

"Making this change might seem quite minor, but it could have a real impact on cancer risk. If everyone who drinks 14% wine at the moment switched to lower-alcohol wine tomorrow, for example, it is likely hundreds of cancer cases in the UK a year could be prevented.

“It is true that most wines in the supermarket these days tend to be 13 or 14%, which means finding lower-alcohol alternatives can be difficult. But it is worth the effort because switching to a lower-alcohol alternative is the kind of lifestyle change that can make a real difference because it is easy to stick to in the long term."

This article was published on Mon 18 January 2010

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