Time to cut down on the booze?
The recent study on alcohol and cancer published in the British Medical Journal is a fine piece of epidemiology and attracted a lot of coverage of the estimate that 10% of male cancers and 3% of female cancers could be attributed to alcohol. But while it is useful as a description of what happens in populations, as usual when translated to an individual it stops looking so impressive.
According to Cancer Research UK, 1 in 3 of us will get cancer in our lives. So out of 100 average drinkers, 33 will get cancer at some point.
According to Table 2 in the BMJ paper, each 12g drink (1.5 units) increases annual cancer risk by 3%. So if another set of 100 people all had a drink less a day, then we would expect 32 would get cancer. If another set of 100 all drank an extra drink a day, 34 would get cancer.
This reinforces Sir Ian Gilmour's comments that we can't expect such evidence to change people's habits - he says we need to have tougher regulation.
Also the attached graphic in the Daily Mail is dreadful - it strongly suggests that 1 in 10 men will get cancer because of drinking.