More than 900 get cancer from alcohol each year, HSE warns

Consultant Marie Laffoy says 12% of breast cancer cases are linked to drinking alcohol

About 500 deaths from cancer, are linked to drinking alcohol each year in Ireland, the Health Service Executive has warned. File photograph: Johnny Green/PA Wire

About 500 deaths from cancer, are linked to drinking alcohol each year in Ireland, the Health Service Executive has warned. File photograph: Johnny Green/PA Wire

 

More than 900 cancer cases, with 500 deaths, are caused by drinking alcohol each year in Ireland, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has warned.

For women, the news is even worse, with 300 cases of breast cancer (12 per cent of total cases) linked to alcohol consumption annually.

Marie Laffoy, a consultant with the HSE National Cancer Control Programme, said the cancers caused by alcohol could take years to develop.

“There is a very long lag time between exposure to alcohol and the development of cancer (10-20 years). This is an especially important message for young women in relation to breast cancer risk,” she said.

“Consumption of just one standard drink per day is associated with a 7 per cent increase in the risk of developing breast cancer, compared to non-drinkers.”

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The most common cancers caused by alcohol in Ireland are breast and bowel, although head and neck remain the higher risk.

Dr Laffoy said the biggest impact for men was bowel cancer, where one in 12 total cases (100) every year were caused by alcohol.

No safe level

She said there was no safe level of alcohol but the risk was reduced by drinking less.

Dr Laffoy said people in Ireland drank an average of 11 litres per person a year, which is higher than the European average of nine litres.

“The more we drink the greater our risk of alcohol-related cancer. Less is good and none is best of all,” she said.

The Department of Health’s low-risk drinking guidelines set a limit of 11 standard drinks per week for women and 17 for men.

A standard drink is defined as a single measure of spirits, small glass of wine or half a pint of beer.

The organisation issued the warning on World Cancer Day as a reminder of the risk.