Love that glass of vino after work to wind down and make you more amiable? Well, just keep it at one glass OK? New research out this week says more than one alcoholic drink a day increases the risk of cancer.

Having more than one alcoholic drink a day is enough to dramatically increase your bowel cancer risk, new research shows. Smoking, obesity, diabetes and eating large amounts of meat also push up the risk of developing the aggressive cancer, which claims 5,000 lives across NZ and Australia country every year.

Researchers analysed more than 100 international studies going back to the 1960s, to determine the colorectal cancer risk attached to key parts of the Antipodean lifestyle.

“It’s the first definitive study to quantify the role of lifestyle … on the risk of developing colorectal cancer,” said Associate Professor Rachel Huxley, of Sydney’s The George Institute.

“People who eat the highest amount of red and processed meat have about 20 per cent greater risk of developing the cancer than those who don’t eat meat.
“It’s similar with obesity: if you are obese your risk is about 20 per cent higher compared to normal weight individuals. “But for alcohol we found that the risk was 60 per cent, and what’s classified as the highest intake isn’t very much.”

Dr Huxley said many New Zealanders and Australians would be shocked to learn that having more than one alcoholic drink daily – or more than seven across a week – was shown to significantly increase the risk of colorectal cancer. This was the consensus result which flowed from an assessment of 21 studies taking in the drinking habits of 9,500 people who went on to develop the cancer.

“Individuals who had more than seven drinks a week had a 60 per cent greater risk of developing colorectal cancer compared to … those who were tee-total,” Dr Huxley said. “So the risk of colorectal cancer with alcohol is strong and you don’t have to drink a lot.”

Diabetes and cigarette smoking were also associated with a 20 per cent increase in the risk of the developing the cancer. About one million new cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed every year around the world, and 12,000 of these are in Australia.

Dr Huxley said the research indicated a “large proportion” of these cancer cases could be avoided by making “relatively modest lifestyle adjustments such as drinking less, quitting smoking, eating healthily and being a little more active”. These changes would also dramatically reduce a person’s risk of developing other major life-threatening illness including heart disease, she said.

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