I was woken up today by the headline news on the radio that, for the first time in twenty years, the UK government have done a comprehensive review of the drinking guidelines and concluded:
There is no safe level of alcohol consumption.
The government recommend that neither men nor women should drink more than 14 units per week, spread over two or three days, allowing several days each week alcohol free. That's approximately 1.5 bottles of wine, drunk slowly.
(Excuse me while I roll on floor laughing).
I used to drink that amount on a Friday. More than that on Saturday and Sunday, and a further bottle every night Monday to Thursday. Oops.
The reason for the harsher stance is new research showing that any level of alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer, especially breast, mouth, throat and bowel cancers.
The link to breast cancer is particularly strong. One drink a day increases your risk by 12%, two drinks daily by 24%, three drinks daily by 36%, and so on.
This is thought to be because of breast cancer's link to oestrogen. Alcohol raises the levels of oestrogen in the body, and most breast cancers are oestrogen receptive, meaning that oestrogen acts as a kind of rocket fuel - making them grow faster.
But it's not just cancer.
Drinking also raises the blood pressure, short and long term, which increases heart attack and stroke risk. And excessive alcohol damages the heart's ability to pump (cardiomyopathy), increasing the risk of heart failure.
Plus we all know about the risk to our liver.
Liver disease in the UK has risen by 400% since the 1970s and 'those at risk are not just chronic alcohol abusers, but also middle-aged professionals who drink a little too much most nights' says Dr Debbie Shawcross, consultant hepatologist and King's College Hospital.
I know how easy it is to think it's not going to happen to me. Or you take a risk every time you cross the road. Or we constantly get conflicting advice. I thought red wine was supposed to be good for us!
That's what I thought. Until it did happen to me (see my post: I Need Help). And when you get your cancer diagnosis, it's too late to say "Ok, I'm listening now!"
I shouldn't have got breast cancer. I'm only 46 - not even on the national screening programme.
I breastfed three children. I eat healthily. I exercise every day. I was a bit overweight (no longer!), but not obese. I haven't smoked for nearly fifteen years.
My only remaining vice was booze (plus box sets and a bit of chocolate).
And I honestly believed that quitting booze seven months before I found the tumour (which had been lurking for years) saved my life.
For a start, being healthier and slimmer made me more aware of my body, and more able to find the lump.
Secondly, having found it I was unable to make the fear go away - I had to deal with it straight away. Had I still been drinking I would have drunk every time the fear emerged, convincing myself to wait a few weeks to see if it went away by itself...
Thirdly, my tumour was massively hormone receptive. Which means that, had I still been drinking, it would have grown much faster.
Because I was diagnosed early and, by this point at least, my tumour was deemed 'slow growing', I avoided chemotherapy and will, in all likelihood, die of something altogether different, hopefully a long time from now.
BUT I still have to live with constant fear of recurrence, and take Tamoxifen (with a dizzying list of potential side effects) for at least a decade.
So PLEASE don't think it's never going to happen to you:
STOP DRINKING AND LIVE LONGER!