October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Drinkaware, the national independent charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse.
Drinkaware is urging the public to be aware of the link between alcohol and breast cancer.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, take some time to understand alcohol and its impact on our health.
Throughout October Drinkaware has been highlighting the need for awareness and education of the HSE low-risk weekly guidelines and the dangers of binge drinking.
How big is the risk?
In Ireland the greatest impact from alcohol for women is breast cancer.
The Healthy Ireland Survey found that 73% of women are not aware that drinking more than the low-risk weekly alcohol guidelines can increase a person's breast cancer risk.
According to the research, alcohol is linked to 1 in 8 breast cancers in Ireland.
Drinking alcohol does not mean you will develop breast cancer – but it does mean the risk is higher.
Director for Communications at Drink Aware, Jennifer Flynn commented:
“Drinkaware’s most recent research carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes in May and June 2022, revealed that 45% of women are drinking on at least a weekly basis and 1 in 5 women who drink report they typically binge drink (consume 6 or more standard drinks) on a typical day when drinking alcohol.
“Worryingly, correct awareness of the HSE low-risk alcohol guidelines remains critically low, at just 3%.”
There are some risk factors for breast cancer that we have no control over, like getting older or family history (genes).
Alcohol is only one risk factor for developing breast cancer; however it is one we can control.
According to the HSE, Alcohol can increase the levels of some hormones, such as oestrogen. High levels of oestrogen increase the risk of breast cancer.
While there are many causes of breast cancer, lifestyle changes like cutting down or cutting out alcohol, is an action within our control to reduce the risk.
Tips for reducing the risks
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Drinkaware has three tips to support Irish women to help them understand their drinking habits and make changes to protect their health and wellbeing:
- Drink less alcohol: Limiting how much you drink is advised to reduce the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer. If you drink alcohol, do not exceed the low-risk weekly alcohol guidelines.
This is no more than 11 standard drinks for women in a week, the equivalent of approx. one bottle of wine and three longneck bottles of beer. Have at least two alcohol-free days in the week.
Do not binge (6+ standard drinks in one sitting) as the liver can only process one standard drink per hour.
Use a measure at home: Free pouring makes it almost impossible to know how much you are really drinking. Use a measure for spirits and wine. Order one for free at www.drinkaware.ie .
Be sober curious: Stock up on alcohol-free alternatives. Cutting out alcohol entirely is one of 12 actions from the WHO European Code Against Cancer that we can take to be healthier and boost cancer prevention.
Director of Communications, Jennifer Connolly added: “To reduce the risk, it is really important for women and men to be aware of and understand the Low-Risk Weekly Guidelines, yet our research shows that 97% of adults in Ireland are not aware of the low-risk weekly guidelines.”
How can I reduce my risk of breast cancer?
- Be active: Exercise and physical activity reduces the risk of breast cancer.
- Stay a healthy weight: Staying a healthy weight is especially important in reducing the risk of breast cancer after the menopause as well as reducing the risk of other cancers.
- Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding lowers the risk of developing breast cancer. The longer you breastfeed the more the risk is reduced.
- Get screened: BreastCheck is the national breast screening programme.
- All women aged 50 to 64 are invited to have a free mammogram (breast X-ray) every 2 years. For more information see www.breastcheck.ie
If you or someone you know is concerned about breast cancer, please see the Drinkaware site on breast cancer, the HSE guidelines, Irish Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Ireland, and the Marie Keating Foundation on prevention, risk factors, diagnosis and support.
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