Britain's top doc says there's no "safe" level of drinking

Healthcheck on Action News

The debate over the risks and health benefits of alcohol is flaring again.

Yesterday, the U-S issued new guidelines saying a drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men is OK.

But today, Britain's chief medical officer say there's no safe level of drinking, and that any alcohol increases the risk of cancer.

That country's new guidelines set lower limits - 6 beers or 7 glasses of wine a week, regardless whether it's for a man or woman.

Those new guidelines could prove hard to swallow in a nation where having a pint is a hallowed tradition.

Alcohol is a known carcinogen.

In the United States, experts estimate about 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths are alcohol-related. People who have more than about four drinks daily run up to triple the risk of contracting cancers of the head and neck than non-drinkers.

The doctors say past studies OVER-estimated any heart benefits from alcohol, but UNDER-estimated the cancer risks, particularly for breast cancer.

While some studies suggest that drinking moderate levels of red wine is good for the heart, British officials say that applies only to women over the age of 55, particularly those who drink no more than about two glasses a week.

The British report said it "concluded that there is no justification for drinking for health reasons."

Britain has been struggling in its long tradition of ales and its pubs.

Lax control of retail sales and cheap alcohol has fueled a rise in binge-drinking, which Prime Minister David Cameron once declared a national scandal.

Even the new guidance acknowledges that people are unlikely to give up drinking and does not call for abstinence.

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