The true risks of drinking

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DRINKING could be putting people at risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer – even at boozing levels just above the recommended amounts, a new report claimed today.

And the region’s alcohol awareness campaigners say it is proof that drinkers in the region need to improve their awareness levels.

The new nation-wide Change4Life campaign, launched yesterday, highlighted that regularly drinking around two large glasses of wine or two strong pints of beer a day would triple the risk of developing mouth cancer and double the risk of developing high blood pressure.

At the same time, a new survey showed most people in the North-East were unaware of the serious illnesses caused by drinking more than the NHS recommends.

For example in the region:

l 81 per cent of people did not realise it increases the risk of developing breast cancer;

l 76 per cent did not realise it increases the risk of bowel cancer;

l 67 per cent did not realise it increases the chance of pancreatitis;

l 48 per cent did not realise it increases the risk of mouth, throat and neck cancer;

l 36 per cent did not realise it increases the risk of high blood pressure;

l 38 per cent did not realise it reduces fertility.

Colin Shevills, director of the North-East alcohol awareness group Balance, said: “The region’s awareness of the dangers needs to change.

“Change4Life will help highlight the risks, which is to be welcomed.”

However, it’s important that we view health education as part of a package of measures that need to be implemented if we are serious about tackling the damage caused by alcohol misuse.

“Pocket money prices, widespread availability and heavy promotion increase alcohol consumption and we need to tackle these through legislation. This includes the introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol, an approach which has reportedly drawn interest from David Cameron, and preventing the alcohol industry from recruiting our children via marketing. Only then will we start to turn back the tide of alcohol misuse.”

A new online calculator will be available on the Change4Life website to help people check how much they are drinking and work out whether they need to cut down. Two million leaflets will also be available for Change4Life supporters and health professionals around the country.