1-month break from alcohol can ‘slash risks of cancer’ – study

Customer Nadia Mavromataki, 35, tastes a glass of wine at Oinoscent wine bar in central Athens. © John Kolesidis
Avoiding alcohol for just one month can slash the risk of developing life-threatening diseases such as cancer and diabetes, a new study has revealed.

The study, carried out by University College London, found that a four-week break from alcohol can heal the liver function and lower blood pressure levels. 

It also revealed that “going dry” for a month can lower one’s chances of developing cancer, diabetes and becoming obese.

As part of the study, researchers monitored 102 healthy men and women in their 40s taking part in a “dry January” campaign.

Beforehand, the women had been drinking an average of 29 units per week while men were consuming 31 units a week, both above the government’s guideline levels.

After the month of abstinence, participants lost nearly 6lbs (2.7kg) in weight and reported improvements in their concentration and sleeping.

Researchers also found that their “liver stiffness” - an indication of damage - had been reduced by 12.5 percent while their insulin resistance had decreased by 28 percent.

‘Substantial improvement’ 

Liver specialist Professor Moore said there was “substantial improvement” in the participants’ livers after their four-week alcohol break.

"These subjects were probably average drinkers - they drank in excess of the guidelines. We studied them before and after the dry month,” she told the Telegraph.

"There was certainly substantial improvement in various parameters of the liver. The other parameters, blood pressure, cholesterol, how well the subjects slept were also substantial,” she added.

Moore said public health bodies should be "interested" by the findings of this study.

"Does it have a sustained impact? We think we will find people drink less going forward.

"The next thing would be to extend the dry January beyond one month to two months, three months."

According to the Times, the Department of Health is examining the study’s results as it prepares new guidelines on safe drinking.

‘Excited’ by findings 

Liver specialist Gautam Metha, who oversaw the study, said she is “excited” as some of the findings are “pretty novel.”

"I am excited. There are some findings that will be pretty novel. It's an important study which shows the benefit from a month's abstinence. What we can't say is how long those benefits are, how durable those benefits are,” the Daily Mail on Monday reported her as saying.

The National Health Service (NHS) advises Britons to consume not more than the recommended alcohol intake to avoid related diseases in the future.

Under the official alcohol unit guidelines, men should not drink more than 3-4 units per day and women should not exceed 2-3 units per day.

Alcohol’s hidden harms usually emerge after a number of years, when serious health issues, such as liver problems or high blood pressure can develop.

However, alcohol isn’t the only sugary treat that people should be avoiding.

‘Bacon and sausages major cause of cancer’ 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that bacon, ham and sausages are a major cause of cancer.

The report, published Monday, said there is sufficient evidence to rank the meats as group 1 carcinogens because of a causal link with bowel cancer.

Head of the International Agency for Research’s monographs programme Dr Kurt Straif said the risk of cancer increases with the amount of meat consumed.

For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” he said.

In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance,” he added.