Did you know that drinking alcohol can cause cancer? Say what? You didn’t know that? Don’t feel bad. I didn’t know either when I was drinking, or maybe I just ignored it. Eschia, take it easy, eh!

So now you’re part of the 25 per cent of Canadians who know that drinking alcohol can cause cancer.

The thing is, people know that alcohol affects the brain, causing mood and behaviour changes and making it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.

Of course, we all know that heavy drinking can cause stretched and drooping heart muscles, irregular heartbeat, strokes, and high blood pressure. Not cool.

And I know you’re already aware that drinking too much can cause a fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis and cirrhosis of the liver. And it can cause blood vessels to swell in the pancreas, preventing proper digestion.

And now we know about the “Big C”. Yes, there are clear connections between alcohol consumption and increased risks of certain types of cancer. Definitely not cool.

The more we drink, the more we increase our chances of developing various cancers.

Drink beer with less alcohol in it, or don’t drink at all, columnist Roy Erasmus writes. “Your body will thank you.” Pixabay photo

B.C. and Yukon campaigns

Health authorities are becoming very concerned about the connection between drinking and cancer.

How would you react if you saw the following message plastered all over the place? “Many people don’t know that alcohol can cause cancer. Now you know.”

Well, that was the message that was distributed by the Fraser Health Authority in the Lower Mainland of BC in transit stations, vehicles, restaurants, bars, and on the agency’s social media platforms.

The Authority started a campaign called “Now You Know” to educate people about how drinking can cause cancer. Now you’re talking.

For instance, their website tells us that drinking any amount of alcohol increases the risk of mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, and breast cancer.

It goes on to say that two or more drinks a day increases the chances of getting bowel and colon cancer and three or more a day raises the risk of stomach and liver cancers.

Additionally, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website says that women who drink 1 drink a day have a 5 to 9 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer than women who don’t drink.

The Fraser Health Authority’s campaign includes tips on how to reduce consumption and manage peer pressure in social situations.

The Yukon Government also started a campaign, as part of a larger public health strategy that involved the University of Victoria and Public Health Ontario, with funding from Health Canada.

They attached stickers to cans and bottles of alcohol warning of cancer risks. The plan was to temporarily replace labels warning about the risks of drinking during pregnancy. Very cool.

Unfortunately, the project came to a screeching halt in just a few weeks. Why? The international liquor industry – the label owners – warned of lawsuits because they did not consent to the new labels being attached.

Well, what do you know?! It seems the liquor industry does not want us to know that drinking booze increases our chances of getting cancer.

Things to do to drink less

As we think about the serious risks to our health caused by drinking, here’s some ideas to help us reduce how much we drink.

Sometimes peer pressure can influence us to drink more. We need to remember it’s okay to turn down a drink if we don’t want one. We can always have a non-alcoholic one instead. Well yaaaaaaa.

We can switch between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks including a glass of water. This way, we’re also re-hydrating, and we can still hold a glass in case we feel awkward without a drink in our hand.

Stick to low-alcohol drinks. For instance, we can choose a lower-strength 4-5 per cent beer rather than a stronger 6-8 per cent one.

These three strategies have been found to be especially effective and here’s a few more that you can try next time you’re socializing. For instance, we can count our drinks, remembering its recommended we drink 14 units or less a week-not in one night.

We can also eat food while drinking or have a glass of water or other non-alcoholic drink before we start drinking. That way we can sip our alcoholic drink instead of drinking it quickly because we’re thirsty.

Or we can make a plan to limit how many drinks we have and stick to it. For example, “Tonight, I’m only going to have two glasses of wine.”

Of course, the best strategy is to abstain from drinking altogether. Your body will thank you.

Roy Erasmus

Roy Erasmus Sr. Is a certified wellness counsellor who survived heart disease and a former member of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories.

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