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The Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women


Updated Health Related Risks and Consequences of Alcohol Use and Abuse in Women





Sub-Category: GENERAL – HEALTH

Resolution Number:










At the 63rd session of the World Health Assembly (WHO), held in Geneva in May 2010, the 193 Member States of the WHO reached a historical consensus on a global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol by adopting resolution WHA63.13 (WHO, 2010). Since then, the risks and harms of drinking alcohol have been systematically evaluated and well-documented. Alcohol has been classified as a #1 preventable carcinogen and linked to at least seven types of cancer, including in the breast, colon, rectum, mouth, throat, liver, esophagus and larynx by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA). Health Canada has lowered low-risk alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks per occasion and 3-6 drinks per week for both men and women. Above the six standard drinks, “the health risks increase more steeply for females than for males.” The research is based on 6,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies supporting the links between alcohol and cancer-related health issues such as breast, liver, kidneys, esophagus, and larynx. There are many variables affecting health-related risks; however, the consensus is that “No amount of alcohol is safe” (CCSA, 2023).Research indicates that differences in how male and female bodies metabolize alcohol make females more vulnerable to alcohol-related health risks. Females have less gastrointestinal and liver enzymes, to break down alcohol, as well as 25% less body water than males. Consequently, alcohol is distributed to every cell of the body less diluted, and in higher concentrations. These factors enhance the impact of alcohol, resulting in higher blood alcohol levels, faster intoxication, and more risk for diseases, specifically in organs with high water content (CCSA, 2023). The Canadian Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) indicates that the death rate from cirrhosis in women is rising to “epidemic proportions”. It is now up by 57% among women ages 45-64, and rose 18% among women ages 25-44 (from 2000-2015). ICES research is particularly alarming, indicating that a woman born in 1990 is 160% more likely to be diagnosed with cirrhosis than a woman born in 1951 (ICES, 2018). Research suggests that binge drinking may be the reason for the increased rates of liver diseases in Canada. In 2022, 28,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, with 7,000 cases and 5,500 deaths being linked to alcohol alone. Alcohol also increases women’s sensitivity to alcohol-induced brain damage, including short-term memory (CCSA, 2023). The majority of Canadian women are unaware of the health risks of alcohol consumption, nor do they understand what is considered a standard drink of alcohol or the alcohol content of a standard drink. Senate Bill #S-254 (4-1) would require the labelling of alcohol to inform the public of alcohol’s links to cancer. Research on prevention strategies indicates warning labels may not solely stop or reduce alcohol use, but when combined with other actions, warning labels can increase awareness and discourage risky alcohol use and behaviours (WHO, 2022).


THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW Canada) urges the Government of Canada and relevant ministries along with the Canadian College of Physicians and Surgeons to: 1. work in partnership to develop a comprehensive, evidence-based prevention campaign strategy aimed at counteracting misinformation and giving consumers of alcohol, especially women, an informed choice; 2.ensure prevention campaign strategies be aimed at influencing a person’s decision to drink and/or reducing alcohol consumption levels; and 3. provide research and evidence based information on i) what constitutes the volume of a standard alcohol drink; ii) the number of standard drinks in a bottle or glass; iii) an outline of the standard drinks not to be exceeded to avoid significant health risks; and iv) an illustration of the causal link between alcohol consumption and the development of fatal cancers, i.e., breast cancer, specifically targeting groups most vulnerable to the effects of alcohol; and FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that BPW Canada urges the Government of Canada and relevant ministries to support research on the sex and gender differences of the effect of alcohol, specifically on the impact of “binge” drinking on the health of females.

©BPW Canada

Article ID: 13356