The Health Promotion Agency on Monday published an assessment of the consequences of drinking alcohol.
The report suggests that more than one in 20 deaths of people under the age of 80 were due to alcohol. It also found 43 percent of all alcohol-related deaths were because of injuries, while more than 30 percent were because of cancers.
Researchers used mortality data for 2004 and 2007 and applied to that World Health Organisation methodology to measure the impact of alcohol on the health of New Zealanders.
Professor Jennie Connor from Otago University said alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer by about 10 percent for every extra drink per day.
“For young women because their baseline risk is so low, it doesn’t amount to very many more cases of breast cancer. But amongst middle-aged and older women, where the risk of breast cancer is much higher, it’s quite a substantial increase in risk from drinking,” she said.
Connor said there is no threshold for the safe consumption of alcohol for many chronic diseases.
Alcohol Health Watch director Rebecca Williams said the report’ s findings are not surprising. She said it’s easy to link alcohol with a road crash or violent incident, but slower harms that take time to take effect can be ignored.
Drinking alcohol causes around 13 per cent of a range of cancers in women, with the risk increasing from just one glass a day, researchers have found.
Women who drink one small glass of wine a day are increasing their risk of developing certain forms of cancer by six per cent, Oxford University researchers found.
This means that around 7,000 cases of cancer in women in the UK are caused by them drinking just one alcoholic drink a day, the study revealed.
Around 5,000 of these cases are related to breast cancer but others are cancers of the rectum, liver, mouth and throat.
For women who drink one drink, calculated as a small 125ml glass of wine, the risk of cancer increased by six per cent by the time they reached 75 years of age.
If women consumed two drinks a day the risk doubled.
The researchers examined survey answers to the Million Women Study and published the results in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
A range of cancers was studied and the increased risk from drinking daily varied with one drink a day increasing the breast cancer risk by 12 per cent up to the age of 75, and cancer of the larynx by 22 per cent.
The study involved more than one million women in the UK and over seven years there were 68,775 cases of cancer recorded.
The researchers calculated each drink to be 10g of alcohol. In the UK, a standard measure of alcohol is 8g but a 10g equivalent would be a small glass (125ml) of 10% ABV (alcohol by volume) wine or a 330ml bottle of beer at 4% ABV.
Dr Naomi Allen, cancer epidemiologist at the University of Oxford and lead author, said the study looked specifically at women who consumed low to moderate levels of alcohol – defined as three drinks a day or fewer.
“These findings suggest that even relatively low levels of drinking – about one or two alcoholic drinks every day – increase a woman’s risk of developing cancer of the breast, liver and rectum, and in smokers, cancers of the mouth and throat.”
Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “We know that too much alcohol increases the risk of a number of cancers. This latest study shows that even relatively low levels of drinking increase a woman’s risk. It is important that women are as well informed as possible so they can take responsible decisions over how much alcohol they drink.
“Cancer Research UK recommends that the more you cut down on alcohol, the more you reduce your cancer risk. The more you drink the greater the risk.”
Dr Sarah Cant, Policy Manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “We already know that drinking alcohol can increase your risk of breast cancer. This study suggests that for women over 50 even drinking moderate amounts of any type of alcohol can have many health consequences, including a greater chance of developing breast cancer.
“Around 80 per cent of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women aged over 50, so limiting how much you drink is one step you can take to try to reduce your risk of developing the disease.”
Betty McBride, Policy & Communications Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This shocking research found that obese adolescents were at the same risk of an early death as someone with a 10 a day plus habit.
“This is an alarming illustration to young people who may have been blasé about the implications of obesity to their future health.
“The Government need to bring the same level of sustained focus to tackling the obesity crisis it has previously brought to smoking.
“The number of young people who are overweight and obese is growing. Without tackling this now we risk the next generation growing up with more health problems than their parents.”
It is thought around seven million people are putting their health at risk by drinking more than the recommended alcohol limits.
A comprehensive Government survey last month claimed that middle aged, professional Britons are more likely to exceed recommended daily levels of alcohol consumption than the working-classes, with twice as many drinking every night of the week.
The study, by the Office for National Statistics, claimed that middle class drinkers are more likely to indulge in “heavy” drinking – which equates to drinking double the recommended daily limit on a given evening.
Almost one in four middle-class drinkers admit to drinking to this level at least once a week. This is equivalent to a man having three pints of strong lager or a woman drinking two large glasses of wine.
The figures have raised fears that it is now much too easy for people to drink more than is good for them, as manufacturers have developed stronger wines and beers while pubs and restaurants serve larger measures and supermarkets offer cut-price deals.
UK guidelines show that women should not drink more than one or two UK units a day and men should not drink more than three or four.
Earlier research has estimated that 15,000 people die annually due to their drinking, from cancer, heart disease, alcoholic liver disease, other illnesses and accidents.
It is thought alcohol misuse costs the economy £25bn a year and around 811,000 hospital admissions are thought to be due to drinking.