"Two glasses of wine a night triples risk of mouth cancer, government warns"
So screams the Telegraph today as it reports on the Church of Public Health's latest advertising campaign:
Television adverts which start running on Sunday evening will say that drinking "just a little bit more" than recommended daily limits for alcohol increases the risk of serious health problems.
Apparently - although neither the article not the government cite the evidence for this or tell us about the actual risks - we are three-times "more likely" to get mouth cancer if we exceed daily recommended limits. And (what a surprise) the article features prohibitionists arguing for a minimum price for alcohol.
Drinking causes cancer! The biggest card in the New Puritan deck...
Over the past forty years alcohol consumption has risen considerably (up to 2002/3) and then fallen sharply. If there was a link between alcohol and mouth cancer you would expect the incidence of this condition to reflect that rise and fall. Here is a chart from Cancer Research UK showing mortality from mouth cancer from 1971 in the UK:
The incidence of this disease hasn't shifted at all over that time. I'm not saying alcohol isn't a risk factor but it doesn't seem to be a big one!
Perhaps they should ask why mouth cancer is the single most common cancer in Pakistani men?
In high-risk countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, oral cancer is the most common cancer in men and may account for up to 30% of all new cases of cancer compared to 3% in the UK and 6% in France.
Food for thought...