Ireland’s high rate of alcohol is related to cancer deaths

The proportion of alcohol- related deaths from cancer in Ireland is higher than the European average, according to a new study, which calculated Ireland’s cancer incidence and mortality rates attributable to alcohol over a 10-year period between 2001 and 2010.

  From the Irish Medical Times

The study, published in the  Irish Medical Journal, says the relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer of the upper aero-digestive tract is greatest, with more than a doubling in risk from an average consumption of 50g of pure alcohol per day. For female breast cancer, each additional 10g of pure alcohol per day is associated with a 7 per cent increase in relative risk. For colorectal cancer, consumption of 50g per day increases the risk by 10-to-20 per cent.

Between 2001 and 2010, 4,585 (4.7 per cent) male and 4,593 (4.2 per cent) female invasive cancer diagnoses were attributable to alcohol. The greatest risk was for the upper aero-digestive tract, where 2,961 (52.9 per cent) of these cancers in males and 866 (35.2 per cent) in females were attributable to alcohol.

Between 2001 and 2010, 2,823 (6.7 per cent) of male cancer deaths and 1,700 (4.6 per cent) of female cancer deaths were attributable to alcohol.

Of the 4,585 alcohol-attributable cancers diagnosed in men, 64.5 per cent were in the upper aero-digestive tract. Alcohol was considered responsible for 52.9 per cent of male upper aero-digestive tract cancers, in contrast with 6 per cent of colon cancers, 11.4 per cent of rectal cancers and 7 per cent of pancreatic. Alcohol played a causative role in 44.5 per cent of male liver cancers.

There were 12,081 male cancer deaths in sites known to be impacted by alcohol and of these, 23.4 per cent were attributed to alcohol. Like cancer incidence, most alcohol-related cancer deaths in men were in the upper aero-digestive tract (63.6 per cent).

Between 2001 and 2010, 39,555 invasive cancers were diagnosed in women in sites where alcohol is known to play a causative role; 4,593 were considered attributable to alcohol, i.e. 11.6 per cent of all the cancers in these specific sites and 4.2 per cent of all female invasive cancers. Among females, upper aero-digestive tract cancers were also most impacted, with 866 of the 2,460 cancers of the upper aero-digestive tract attributable to alcohol. Only 3.6 per cent of colon, 7 per cent of rectal and 3 per cent of pancreatic cancers were attributed to alcohol. However, 12.2 per cent of breast cancers, 305 cases annually, were attributed to alcohol. This accounted for two-thirds of all cancer diagnoses attributable to alcohol in females.

Dr Marie Laffoy, National Cancer Control Programme and one of the study authors, said: “Public awareness of risk must improve. Over half of alcohol-related cancers are preventable by adhering to alcohol consumption guidelines. A public and health professional information campaign is needed to highlight the risk of alcohol on cancer. Women need to know about the risk of breast cancer from even low levels of consumption so that they can make an informed choice about their alcohol consumption.”

’Cancer Incidence and Mortality due to Alcohol: An Analysis of 10-Year Data.’

IMJ November-December 2013.   Vol 106,   No. 10. p.294.