900 cancer cases per year caused by alcohol
Drinking has been named as a chief cause of cancer, with booze causing 900 cases of cancer each year while alcohol is linked to 500 deaths.
Figures released by the HSE yesterday, on World Cancer Day, outlined how binge drinking causes a much greater risk of contracting the disease.
"The more we drink the greater our risk of alcohol-related cancer," said Dr Marie Laffoy, Consultant in Public Health with the HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP).
She added: "The cancers caused by alcohol can take many years to develop, so the effect of drinking habits today will be seen well into the future."
Alcohol is known to cause seven cancers – breast, bowel (colon and rectum), pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and pancreas. While the highest risk is for head and neck cancer, the greatest impact in Ireland relates to breast and bowel cancer, simply because these are common cancers.
According to Dr Laffoy: “For women in Ireland, the most important impact from alcohol is in relation to breast cancer. Approximately 12% of all breast cancers (300 cases per year) are associated with alcohol consumption.
"For men, the most important impact relates to bowel cancer where around 100 cases are caused by alcohol annually (one in every twelve cases)."
The NCCP stressed, however, that most alcohol-related cancers can be prevented by sticking to the Department of Health low-risk drinking guidelines.
These guidelines set a maximum of eleven standard alcoholic drinks per week for women and up to seventeen for men. A standard drink is half a pint of beer, a single measure of spirits or a small glass of wine.