No alcohol level is safe for human consumption, says WHO

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The World Health Organisation has warned that no level of alcohol consumption is safe for human health.

In a statement published in The Lancet Public Health, WHO said there is no safe amount that does not affect health, the risks and harms associated with drinking alcohol have been systematically evaluated over the years and are well-documented.

It noted that alcohol is a toxic, psychoactive, and dependence-producing substance and has been classified as a Group 1 Carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer decades ago.

“This is the highest risk group, which also includes asbestos, radiation and tobacco. Alcohol causes, at least, seven types of cancer, including the most common cancer types, such as bowel cancer and female breast cancer,” it said.

The WHO noted that ethanol (alcohol) causes cancer through biological mechanisms as the compound breaks down in the body, saying that any beverage containing alcohol, regardless of its price and quality, poses cancer risk.

It added that the risk of developing cancer increases substantially the more alcohol that is consumed.

Meanwhile, available data from WHO, indicate that half of all alcohol-attributable cancers in the European Region are caused by light and moderate alcohol consumption less than 1.5 litres of wine or less than 3.5 litres of beer, or less than 450 millilitres of spirits per week.

According to the data, this drinking pattern is responsible for the majority of alcohol-attributable breast cancers in women, with the highest burden observed in countries of the European Union.

It noted that in the EU, cancer is the leading cause of death with a steadily increasing incidence rate, and the majority of all alcohol-attributable deaths are due to different types of cancers.

Dr. Carina Ferreira-Borges, acting Unit Lead for Non-communicable Disease Management and Regional Advisor for Alcohol and Illicit Drugs in the WHO Regional Office for Europe said, “We cannot talk about a so-called safe level of alcohol use. It doesn’t matter how much you drink, the risk to the drinker’s health starts from the first drop of any alcoholic beverage.

“The only thing that we can say for sure is that the more you drink, the more harmful it is or, in other words, the less you drink, the safer it is.”

More so, a fertility expert and Managing Director, Nordica Fertility Centre, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi urged the women who are trying to achieve pregnancy to stay away from alcoholic drinks and others, saying that it may affect the chances of one getting pregnant.

Ajayi, who is also a Consultant Gynecologist and Obstetrician added that though the most likely impact of alcohol on getting pregnant would be from mid-cycle to the time of the expected period, it is safer to steer clear while expecting conception.