Many unaware of alcohol-cancer link

  • Deborah Condon

Ireland's next government has been urged to introduce explicit health warnings on alcohol products, particularly in relation to cancer.

Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI), the national charity for alcohol-related issues, made its appeal to coincide with World Cancer Day (February 4). It pointed out that there is ‘an undeniable link' between alcohol and many cancers, however some drinkers are unaware of this.

Alcohol increases the risk of a number of cancers, including mouth, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum and breast cancer. Figures compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) show that Ireland has the second highest cancer rate in the world and regular alcohol consumption is listed as one of the factors, along with high-fat diets and lack of exercise, contributing to these high cancer rates.

However European research carried out last year found that overall awareness of cancer risks is low in Ireland.

"Ireland has the second highest cancer rate in the world, yet almost one in five of us do not believe there is a connection between the disease and alcohol. Consumers have the right to be made aware of the links between alcohol use and the risks to health," commented AAI director, Fiona Ryan.

She pointed out that women suffer disproportionally, as the risk of breast cancer increases the more alcohol is consumed.

"Many women do not know that drinking one standard alcoholic drink a day is associated with a 9% increase in the risk of developing breast cancer, while three to six drinks a day increases the risk by as much as 41%," Ms Ryan said.

She insisted that the introduction of warning labels on alcohol products, as well as a full list of ingredients and the number of alcohol units in the product, ‘will equip all consumers with essential information about the dangers associated with alcohol use before they drink'.

"The incoming Government should seize the opportunity and act on overdue legislation to put information/health warning labels on all packaged alcohol. People want and have the right to make informed choices about their health. The introduction of alcohol health warning labels will ensure that consumers will no longer be left in the dark about the many health risks associated with alcohol," Ms Ryan added.


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