Canadian Cancer Society's 'Dry Feb' campaign urges Canadians to stop drinking, lower their cancer risk

·2 min read

Nearly a year into a pandemic that has ratcheted up stress levels and driven down social support systems, a worrying trend has emerged.

People are drinking more alcohol than in pre-pandemic times, something the Canadian Cancer Society hopes to change with its annual Dry Feb campaign.

The campaign asks people to stop drinking for the month of February. Participants collect pledges and donate that money to the society for use in cancer research.

Spokesperson Elizabeth Holmes said surveys show some Canadians are drinking more than they did before March 2020. The good news, she said, is that many of them want to cut back or quit altogether.

"So that's a great opportunity to turn that intention into action," Holmes said.

If Dry Feb sounds like too much commitment, this year the campaign has a Dry(ish) Feb option that allows people to reduce their drinking for the month instead of quitting altogether.

One person who is on board with the Dry Feb campaign is Tammy Breen. She struggled with alcohol and drug use before quitting three years ago.

Getting sober has been good for her health and her relationships with her daughters.

"I hurt them a lot in the past. I just got to the point where I don't want to hurt them or myself anymore," Breen said. COVID makes it harder to lean on her support systems, but Breen uses FaceTime, Zoom and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to stay sober.

"Just know there is hope out there," she said.

Since its inception six years ago, Dry Feb has raised more than $2.3 million for cancer research. According to the society's website, an overlooked side effect of alcohol use is an increase in many forms of cancer, including cancers of the head, neck, breast, stomach and pancreas.