Irish love affair with drink raises cancer risk

The average Irish person drinks 700 times more alcohol than internationally recommended cancer-preventing maximums allow for.

Figures revealed at a major health conference show a love affair with alcohol is putting people at serious risk of needlessly losing their lives.

The research, detailed on the first day of the European Week Against Cancer conference in Dublin, said Irish people, on average, drink 37g of alcohol a day — the equivalent of two pints.

However, the European Food Safety Authority insists drinking more than an average of 0.05g of alcohol a day risks major health problems in the future, with cancer among the most problematic results.

“The guidelines for alcohol consumption are not strong enough, particularly when considering it as a carcinogenic,” said Peter Anderson, an expert in substance use, policy and practice at Newcastle University in England.

“By comparison, there are more stringent guidelines in place for restricting the use of pesticides on fruit than for controlling alcohol consumption in humans.

“From a public health perspective, the Irish Government should legislate against alcohol advertising and sponsorship as has been the case for tobacco.

“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.”

The finding is based on research by Prof Anderson, which he revealed at the conference yesterday.

The findings are strongly supported by the Irish Cancer Society, which said that Ireland must cut back on its alcohol consumption if the nation wants to improve its health.

According to the society, alcohol contributes to one-in-10 cancers in men and one-in-33 cancers in women, with 900 people affected in Ireland every year.

Among the most common forms of cancer linked to alcohol are oral cavity, pharynx, throat, liver, colon and rectum, along with breast cancer.

The society noted that having just one “harmless” drink a day can result in a 9% increased risk in breast cancer.

“Ireland has one of the highest rates of cancer in the world and we can no longer ignore the impact of alcohol,” said the society’s head of advocacy and communications, Kathleen O Meara.

*Further information is available from the Irish Cancer Society on 01-2310500 or online at www.cancer.ie.

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