‘No safe level’ of consuming alcohol

With research showing a link between light alcohol consumption and cancer, everyone should reflect on their level of drinking and consider reducing it, a liver expert has advised.

The study published in the British Medical Journal also found that having just one drink a day increased the risk of breast cancer in women by 15%.

President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and liver specialist, Prof Frank Murray, said a substantial number of people in Ireland drink in a way that is harmful to their health.

“People should be aware that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption and they should never drink because they believe there is a health gain from alcohol.”

“Evidence shows that there are only marginal health gains for women aged over 65,” he pointed out.

Alcohol consumption is associated with seven types of cancer including breast cancer in women as well as the liver, esophagus and the colon.

Prof Murray said there was no magic bullet to reduce the health harm of alcohol in Ireland but a central part would be the introduction of minimum pricing.

The Public Health Alcohol Bill was also an opportunity to include warnings about the risk of consuming alcohol and getting cancer.

Prof Murray said he was not “anti-alcohol”— he enjoyed a drink himself. But he did want people to realise the very substantial and measurable risks involved.

“Alcohol probably causes about three deaths a day in Ireland — about 1,000 a year.,” he said.

“I think it is quite important for people to be aware of the risks from drinking alcohol, particularly people who have a family history of breast cancer.”

The BMJ study recommends that women who have a family history of breast cancer should consider whether or not to drink.

Meanwhile, Alcohol Action Ireland has called for excise duty on alcohol to be set at a level that reflects its significant health, social and economic impacts.

The organisation’s chief executive, Suzanne Costello, said increases in excise duty on alcohol had failed to keep pace with increases in disposable income.

During 18 of the last 26 budgets there was either no change in excise duty or a decrease in rates, said Ms Costello when she launched the national charity’s pre-budget submission.

“If you are 18 years old in Ireland, the excise duty on beer has increased just twice and been cut once during your lifetime,” she said.

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