THE risk of women developing breast cancer can increase by six per cent due to alcohol intake, a doctor has warned.

Dr Stephen Liversedge, a GP working at the surgery in Darwen Road, Bromley Cross, said people rightly associate alcohol-related health problems with liver disease, but often are unaware that drinking alcohol can contribute to cancer.

He said liver cancer and cancer of the oesophagus are the most common cancers associated with alcohol.

Dr Liversedge said: “Research has found that for every one unit of alcohol you take every day over a lifetime it increases the risk of breast cancer in women by six per cent.

“People are worried about cancer and what they can do to protect against it.

“Eating healthily, doing exercise, not smoking and drinking within sensible limits are strong protection factors against cancer.”

He said people are most commonly diagnosed with cancer while aged in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

Dr Liversedge said: “When asked the main adverse health effects of alcohol people will say, quite rightly, that liver disease is the main problem and a few more people will be aware alcohol has an effect on the heart.

“People are also aware that some people who become dependent on alcohol will have mental health issues.

“People aren’t really aware of the effect of alcohol on cancers. They aren’t the exclusive causes of cancer but they can contribute to the risk.

“About one in five of all alcohol-related deaths are due to cancer.”

The risk of cancer is increased because alcohol is broken down by the body into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde, which can cause cancer by damaging DNA and stopping cells from repairing the damage.

The chemical can also cause liver cells to grow at a faster than normal rate, which can lead to cancer.

Dr Liversedge said Asian people are at an increased risk as around one in three people’s bodies do not transform acetaldehyde into a harmless substance well.

Unfortunately, he said, there will still be people diagnosed with cancer even if they do not drink and have a healthy lifestyle.

Dr Liversedge said: “There will be extra cases of cancer in people who drink within the guidelines then there will be cases in people who don’t drink at all.”