Addiction recently published a summary of the evidence linking alcohol consumption to cancer. The author, Jennie Connor, was not presenting new data; however, just 13% of people mention cancer when asked about the risks of drinking, so Connor’s essay attracted huge public and media interest. In doing so, it raised questions about how we communicate the risks of drinking and, particularly, where the message ‘no safe level of drinking for cancer’ is taking us.
From a scientific perspective, the central point of Connor’s case is watertight. Meta-analyses consistently demonstrate a relationship between how much people drink and their risk of developing seven cancer types: oropharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast (in women). In each case, the risk increases with each extra drink consumed and, although the risk is small at low levels of consumption, this has prompted the ‘no safe level’ message advanced by somepublichealth
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