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No Alcohol is Best – The Hidden Toll of Alcohol


Most people are not aware that drinking any type of alcohol (even in small amounts) increases cancer risk.

Alcohol use and abuse together pose significant health problems.

CANSA urges the public to consider the toll that alcohol is taking on their bodies and how it affects those around them.

Alcohol consumption is also associated with significant public health and safety problems.

The more alcohol an individual drinks, the higher their risk for cancer, so individuals are encouraged to lower their alcohol intake or even quit. ‘Binge’ drinking (having five or more standard alcoholic drinks on a single occasion), adds to that risk substantially.

Media Release | Infographics

Slideshow & PDF: English | Afrikaans

Youth Vulnerable and Targeted by Companies Selling Alcohol

Recent investigations into alcohol marketing practices demonstrated an association between exposure to alcohol brands, product advertising and youth alcohol consumption.

The Youth Risk Behaviour Survey (2011) carried out with Grade 8 to 11 learners attending public schools in all nine provinces of South Africa, indicated that youth alcohol usage is particularly concerning.

Almost half (49%) of these learners responded that they’d had alcohol before at some point in their lives, and 32% that they’d had alcohol in the month prior to the survey. One in four learners reported that they had engaged in binge drinking or in having five or more alcoholic drinks on at least one (or more) day/s in the month prior to the survey.

The study also found that the higher the grade / age of the learner, the more likely it was that he or she consumed alcohol. The Youth Risk Behaviour Survey also found that 18 % of learners participating in the survey, had sex post alcohol consumption.

Alcohol Puts You and Others at Risk:

Drinking not only affects your health, but may also have negative consequences for those around you. In South Africa, alcohol is considered to be the most widespread and harmful drug of abuse. In 2015, alcohol was declared the 5th leading cause of death and disability in South Africa.

This is due to the fact that alcohol influences unsafe sexual practices (including transmission and progression of sexually transmitted diseases) and interpersonal violence. These two factors are among the top two contributors to disability and death, with alcohol itself being the 3rd largest contributor to disability and death, accounting for 7 % of the SA health burden. Of the 7 % of the disease burden attributable to alcohol, 3.4 % are related to cancers. Furthermore, alcohol use is linked to personal injury (including those due to road crashes), and suicides. Alcohol consumption is also associated with destruction of families and disruption of communities.

Here we share the facts with you in the hope that you will be motivated to quit drinking alcohol & to take charge of your health:

Reduce Your Cancer Risk:

1. Think Through Why You Should Quit

  • In 1988 alcohol was declared a cancer causing agent to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and in 2007 and 2009, these findings were confirmed.
  • Drinking any type of alcoholic beverage, even in small amounts, whether wine, spirits, alcopops, home-made (Umqombothi) or commercially produced beer increases risk for cancer.
  • There’s strong evidence that alcohol causes cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, mouth, pharynx, larynx, liver and oesophagus. And there’s also mounting evidence that heavy drinking might be linked to cancer of the pancreas (Cancer Research UK 2016). Furthermore evidence suggests that drinking alcohol causes stomach and breast cancer in pre-menopausal women. Alcohol can cause weight gain which also increases cancer risk. See the latest fact sheets on these cancers…
  • The increased risk for cancer due to alcohol consumption may be related to two chemicals that can damage the DNA of healthy cells, namely ethanol (which is the primary ingredient in alcoholic beverages), and acetaldehyde (which is made when alcohol is digested by the body). Alcohol may affect the breakdown of the hormone oestrogen, which results in increased levels of oestrogen in the blood. This in turn is a risk factor for breast, ovarian and uterine cancers. (This is a particular concern to pre-menopausal women and women taking menopausal hormone therapy). Drinking alcohol may affect the body’s ability to process and absorb important nutrients such as Vitamins A, C, D, E; Folate, and Carotenoids. Furthermore, alcohol may result in increased weight gain which also increases cancer risk.
  • Alcohol in a pregnant woman’s blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioural, and intellectual disabilities. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
  • In addition to cancer risk, the more alcohol consumed, the greater the risks for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and liver disease.


2. Tips to Lower Alcohol Intake

Quitting alcohol can have a positive effect on your health, lifestyle and relationships. #StartWhereYouAre:

  • Acknowledge that drinking can harm your health and negatively influence others’ well being – make the decision to lower the amount of alcohol you drink and to do so responsibly
  • Decide ahead of the time how many drinks you will limit yourself to on a particular occasion
  • Make your drink last by drinking slowly – avoid drinking rounds
  • Choose times of the week which you will keep as alcohol free and stick to it – challenge your friends to do the same
  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach
  • Choose lighter beers or spirits with less alcohol
  • Get creative mixing drinks that allow you to reduce alcohol content
  • Alternate your drink with water
  • Calculate how much money you save each time you don’t buy alcoholic drinks

Take the 30-Day No-Alcohol Challenge (Kindle Edition) to help you reduce your alcohol intake or quit alcohol.

NB: Remember that drinking any type of alcohol (even in small amounts) increases cancer risk.

3. Quit & Stay Alcohol Free

Perhaps you realise that you are drinking too much and you would like to quit – you will need support to break your addiction.

  • Acknowledge your addiction
  • Decide to quit
  • Find support

Find helpful tips from Allen Carr’s How to Stop Drinking programme and or contact Alcoholics Anonymous (Helpline: 0861 435 722)

And if at first you don’t succeed, evaluate where you think things went wrong, put measures in place to prevent the same mistake into the future and most importantly, try, try and try again!

4. Play Your Part in Alcohol Control:

South Africa is currently considering a liquor amendment bill to reduce per capita consumption, including raising the national minimum legal purchase age from 18 to 21 years. Increasing the cost of alcoholic beverages through taxation and restricting or banning marketing and advertising of alcoholic products are deemed cost effective strategies in alcohol control. #SupportAlcoholControl

CANSA made a submission and welcomed the proposed amendments and the banning of sale to persons under age 21 and requested that the Minister prescribes messages on alcohol container labels that reflect the harmful effects of alcohol consumption including cancer risk. It also urged the Minister to ban alcohol consumption in public and private institutions of learning, at functions, and for the purpose of raising funds and called for an outright ban on all forms of advertising and promotion of alcohol on all media platforms and that there be standardisation in all provinces. #CANSAadvocacy

5. Protect Our Future Generations

We need healthier future generations, who are able to exercise smart choices. Parents are advised to keep communication channels open between themselves and their children, also demonstrating responsible behaviour and how to manage stress in positive ways.

They should also talk to them about the disadvantages of alcohol abuse including that it increases personal vulnerability, cancer risk, and risk of disability and death.

Has Cancer Touched Your Life?

Cancer affects one in four South Africans, through diagnosis of family, friends, colleagues or self.

We want you to know that you are not alone and that we would like to support you and your loved ones, regardless of how cancer has touched your life.

Find info & online resources to help you fight cancer and please read more about CANSA’s Holistic Care & Support which is offered at our CANSA Care Centres countrywide.

Do you have a question?
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 072 197 9305 English and Afrikaans
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