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DRINKERS are being encouraged to cut their booze consumption during Alcohol-Free Week.

The week starts on Wednesday 25 February 2009 to coincide with the season of Lent when, traditionally, observers abstain from some indulgence such as drinking alcohol.

A study published this week by the charity Cancer Research has shown that drinking as little as two units of alcohol a week significantly increases the risk of breast, colon and stomach cancer.

During Alcohol-Free Week people are being encouraged to give up alcohol for one day, a weekend or for a full week.

Events include educational stalls and alcohol-free taster days in town centres, colleges and workplaces and a Manchester pub is even encouraging customers to have an alcohol-free day.

Landlord John Martin, who runs The Parkside Hotel in Prestwich, is offering customers free alcohol-free beer and wine on Wednesday 25 February to mark the start of Alcohol-Free Week.

The initiative is sponsored by The Alcohol-Free Shop - based in Manchester - and is supported by the NHS Drinking Responsibly Project, and the north west-based charity FAS Aware UK that promotes alcohol awareness in pregnancy.

Alcohol-Free Week is also supported by a number of local authorities in towns and cities where alcohol awareness campaigns are being organised to coincide with the week.

The aim of Alcohol-Free Week is to make people more aware of their drinking habits and help them see how big a role alcohol plays in their lives and how easy, or difficult, it is to do without.

A website has been set up at www.alcoholfreeweek.co.uk to help those taking up the challenge. The website offers facts about alcohol, how it affects the body, tips on drinking wisely, suggestions on alternatives to drinking alcohol and a chance to win a case of alcohol-free beer every day during Alcohol-Free Week.

There are also links to support groups for those worried about their own or someone else's drinking and organisations such as FAS Aware UK that supports families living with the consequences of foetal alcohol spectrum that can cause physical abnormalities and lifelong learning difficulties.

Gloria Armistead, FAS Aware UK coordinator, said: "Alcohol-Free Week is a good initiative to help people recognise the dangers of alcohol and change their behaviour if their drinking is having an adverse effect on their health or the health of others particularly their children.

"Drinking alcohol in pregnancy can create a lifetime of problems for you and the child. There is no safe time, no safe amount and no two women are the same."

John Risby, who launched The Alcohol-Free Shop in May 2006, said: "A lot of people make new year's resolutions to reduce their alcohol intake, lose weight and improve their fitness but after a few weeks, often their good intentions fail. Lent is a good time to give it another go.

"Health experts say that even moderate drinkers should have at least two alcohol-free days a week. We're hoping that, during Alcohol-free Week, people will avoid alcohol on at least one day and that avoiding alcohol at least some of the time will become a lifestyle choice."

Recent studies by the Cancer Research charity found that consuming even moderate amounts of alcohol every day increases the risk of some cancers by 10%.

Liz Burns from the Manchester-based NHS Drinking Responsibly project hopes people will think more carefully about the amount they drink in light of the links between alcohol and cancer.

She said, "People often have no warning that they are destroying their liver until it is almost too late. Unless our drinking habits change, liver disease may soon become the major cause of early death."

Ends

For further information please contact:

Christine Humphreys via email: christine@alcoholfree.co.uk or by phone on 0845 388 3068

John Martin, Landlord, The Parkside Hotel 0161 773 1208

Gloria Armistead: fasawareuk@blueyonder.co.uk

Liz Burns: elizabeth.burns@manchester.nhs.uk

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