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'We are seeing a paradigm shift': New report highlights health concerns linked to alcohol

New guidelines published by the Canadian Centre of Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) are cautioning Canadians on how alcohol consumption can lead to serious health risks.

"I think we are seeing a paradigm shift in relation to alcohol's harm to our health," said Adam Sherk, a University of Victoria-based scientist who worked on the report.

The new guidelines suggest Canadians who consume seven or more alcoholic drinks per week are considered "high-risk" for serious health issues, including cancer, heart disease and stroke. One to two drinks per week is considered low-risk, while three to six drinks is labeled moderate-risk.

"Even in this kind of three-to-six-drinks-per-week range, if you're drinking like that for your whole life, you're adding up those probabilities of risk," said Sherk.

Prior to the updated guidelines, it was considered safe for Canadian men to drink up to 15 standard drinks per week, with women safe to consume 10 standard drinks.

"It's certainly different than the previous guidelines that came out 10 years ago," said Sherk. "The evidence regarding alcohol use and health has evolved over the last decade."

A "standard drink of alcohol" is considered a 341-millilitre bottle of beer, 142-millilitre glass of wine or 43-millilitre shot glass of spirits.

The report also recommends changes on how alcohol is marketed, including adding a warning label that says alcohol can cause cancer.

"Less than 50 per cent know that alcohol causes cancer. But it does. Alcohol causes cancer," said Sherk.

According to the report, nearly 7,000 cancer deaths per year are linked to alcohol use. Smoking tobacco remains the leading cause of cancer deaths in the country with approximately 45,000 per year, according to

Jeff Guignard, executive director of B.C.'s Alliance of Beverage Licensees, says he welcomes the report but feels it doesn't consider several factors.

"I think everybody agrees with a responsible and educated public when it comes to consumption," said Guignard. "This study doesn't look at some of the positive benefits, like having a glass of red wine has been linked with reduced incidences of heart disease."

Although the alcohol health consumption guidelines are considerably lower than several European countries and the United States, Sherk believes new data will drive other countries to follow suit in the near future.

"The more recent (the guidelines) are, the lower they tend to be, and that's just because the science has evolved a little bit in the last 10 or 20 years," said Sherk. Top Stories

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