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A new study reported in the Sydney Morning Hearld reports that linking drinking and breast and bowel cancer should cause women to rethink their drinking habits.

The World Health Organization says there is enough evidence to add breast and colorectal (colon or bowel) cancer to the list of cancers already associated with drinking alcohol,

which include mouth, throat and liver cancer.

WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) estimated those who drank five standard drinks were 40 per cent more at risk of getting colorectal cancer than non-drinkers. Women who drank five drinks a day faced a 50 per cent increased risk of breast cancer.

Even women who had less than two standard drinks showed a significant increase in cancer risk. The type of alcohol had no impact, with beer, wine and spirits all considered to have a carcinogenic effect.

IARC director Peter Boyle said the link between cancer and alcohol consumption was more likely than previously thought and a major concern “in view of the changing drinking patterns of women in many countries”.

A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare thatt found more than a third of drinkers consuming alcohol at risky levels.

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Ian Olver said that while moderate drinking had some health benefits, particularly for cardiovascular problems, people with other risk factors for breast and bowel cancer, such as family history, needed to be extra vigilant.

The findings are the work of 26 scientists from 15 countries and are published in the April issue of Lancet Oncology.

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