Irish drinkers risking cancer

  • Deborah Condon

Irish people are consuming more than 700 times the recommended safe level of alcohol needed to prevent drink-related cancers, a major European conference has been told.

Alcohol is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) and is responsible for one in 10 males cancers and one in 33 females cancers in Ireland. This amounts to around 900 cases of cancer every year.

Alcohol can increase the risk of a number of types of cancer, including liver, breast, colon and mouth cancer.

Speaking at the official conference of European Week Against Cancer, which is being hosted by the Irish Cancer Society (ICS), Prof Peter Anderson, of the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University in the UK, explained that the average Irish person who drinks alcohol consumes around 37g per day. This is over 700 times the recommended exposure level set by the European Food Safety Authority to prevent food and drink-related cancers.

"The guidelines for alcohol consumption are not strong enough, particularly when considering it as a carcinogenic. By comparison, there are more stringent guidelines in place for restricting the use of pesticides on fruit than there are for controlling alcohol consumption in humans," he pointed out.

He told the conference that from a public health perspective, the government should ban all alcohol advertising and sponsorship, as it has done for tobacco products.

"Alcohol advertising helps foster more favourable drinking experiences and promotes social approval for consumption. It will not be possible for Irish society to develop a healthier relationship with alcohol if alcohol continues to be marketed in such an aggressive fashion," he insisted.

Meanwhile, according to ICS head of advocacy, Kathleen O'Meara, Ireland has one of the highest rates of cancer in the world and the role of alcohol can no longer be ignored.

"We now know that one in 10 cancers in men and one in 33 in women are caused by drinking. When people smoke as well as drink, the two work in combination to substantially increase the risk of cancer. Alcohol and tobacco are estimated to account for about three-quarters of oral cancer cases in Europe," she explained.

She said that reducing the number of people who develop cancer ‘will require all decision-makers to make this a priority issue and work together to develop solutions'.

The conference was told that even heavy drinkers can reduce their risk of cancer. For example, research has shown that the risk of developing cancer of the mouth throat and oesophagus falls over time if a person stops drinking.

"Alcohol is one of the key determinants not only for cancer but also of other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It is crucial that we work together to make the European public aware of the risks of drinking too much alcohol," added Prof Maja Primiz-Zakelj, president of the Association of European Cancer Leagues.

The two-day conference is being held at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.



P - 02/06/2013 18:31

Long overdue research on cannabis is now showing that this unfairly demonised herb is not only a potent anti-cancer agent ─ it can also prevent cancers from occurring!

But our government's line still is; "all measures to prevent the smoking of cannabis will be taken, without any regard to its many health benefits"!

And the drug alcohol, which causes the greatest damage to its users et al, is still the one our government looks most favourably on!

It's all about money! Health and quality-of-life don't enter into their equation!

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