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The Hidden Toll of Alcohol

Afrikaanse Persvrystelling


7 May 2019 – During June, CANSA reinforces the message of its 365 Day Health Challenge campaign, that individuals have the power to lower cancer risk by making healthy lifestyle choices.

Most people are not aware that drinking any type of alcohol (even in small amounts) increases the cancer risk. CANSA highlights the toll that alcohol takes on bodies and how it affects those around them.

Elize Joubert, CANSA CEO, states, “Alcohol consumption is associated with significant public health and safety problems, including causing a number of cancers.”

“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. 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. In South Africa, alcohol is considered to be the most widespread and harmful drug of abuse.”


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

Almost half (49%) of these learners responded that they had had alcohol in their lives so far, and 32% had had alcohol in the last month (before 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 last month (as in the month before the survey was done).

This demonstrates the levels to which these learners used alcohol. The study also found that the higher the grade/ age the more likely it is that they used/ drank alcohol.

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,” she added.

“The more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk for cancer so we aim to encourage people to lower their alcohol intake or even quit. And ‘binge’ drinking (having five or more standard alcoholic drinks on a single occasion) adds to that risk substantially. We have to create public awareness about the negative impact that alcohol has in causing a number of cancers and other health problems on the body,” concludes Joubert.

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. 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.

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

For more information, please contact Lucy Balona, Head: Marketing and Communication at CANSA at email Call 011 616 7662 or mobile 082 459 5230.

CANSA offers a unique integrated service to the public and to all people affected by cancer. CANSA is a leading role-player in cancer research and the scientific findings and knowledge gained from our research are used to realign our health programmes, as well as strengthen our watchdog role to the greater benefit of the public. Our health programmes comprise health and education campaigns; CANSA Care Centres that offer a wide range of care and support services to those affected by cancer; stoma and other clinical support; medical equipment hire, as well as a toll-free line to offer information and support. We offer a Tele Counselling service in seven languages free of charge. We also supply patient care and support in the form of 8 CANSA Care Homes in the main metropolitan areas for out-of-town cancer patients and CANSA-TLC lodging for parents and guardians of children undergoing cancer treatment.

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