Sarah is Head of Health Information at World Cancer Research Fund
In Britain, culture and social norms play a huge role in shaping our drinking habits, with alcohol at the centre of most social activities. A decision to ‘stay off the booze’ is often met with probing questions, followed by unhelpful coaxing to forget health goals and join in the fun. A few glasses won’t hurt, will they?
In fact, we now know that there’s no safe threshold when it comes to alcohol and cancer, with alcohol increasing the risk of six common cancers.
But knowing this isn’t always enough, as peer pressure is the number one reason people say they struggle to reduce how much they drink. So how can you cut down on your drinking while still having fun with your friends?
Broaden your social activities
Avoiding alcohol doesn’t have to mean not socialising. Be creative and think of ways that you can spend time with friends in an environment where drinking isn’t expected. Go for an early dinner and finish off with the cinema, or arrange to meet for Sunday lunch so that Monday morning acts as a deterrent.
If you are out for a night but don’t want to drink too much, be armed with reasons that your friends can’t argue with, such as an important week ahead at work. Most people will actually envy your willpower rather than thinking that you’re a party pooper!
Make the most of health campaigns
If you’re struggling to get motivated to drink less, then take advantage of campaigns such as Dry January which make it easier for you to set boundaries for yourself and others.
Giving up for just one month has been shown to have huge benefits for health – and feeling those benefits will give you the motivation to drink more sensibly after the month is over. You’ll also be more likely to get support from your friends when you sign up to a public campaign, and getting sponsorship is a great way to spur you on.
If you do drink, alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks can really help reduce the amount of alcohol you drink overall. Also, try adding low-calorie mixers to wine or spirits to make spritzers or longer cocktails.
Having a non-alcoholic drink when you’re buying a round is an excellent way of completely avoiding those tricky questions – and finding something that you really like (soda water with a splash of orange juice?) certainly makes things easier.
Be a trendsetter
If all the health benefits aren’t enough to encourage you to cut down on alcohol, then you might like to know that abstinence is a growing trend. More and more people are opting to drink less – so be a trendsetter and start reducing your cancer risk today!
This week is Alcohol Awareness Week. To find out more about alcohol and cancer, and ways to cut down on how much you drink, download our factsheet A Closer Look at Alcohol.