Saturday 24 February 2018

Plan to tackle alcohol abuse as liver cancer diagnoses up 300pc

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Picture: Tom Burke
Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Picture: Tom Burke
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Alcohol is fuelling a surge in liver cancer, particularly in men, a new report has warned.

Harmful drinking is contributing to the 300pc rise in people diagnosed with liver cancer over 20 years, according to the National Cancer Registry.

The toll has seen the number of cases rise from 60 per year in the mid-1990s to 270 in both 2013 and 2014.

It comes amid ongoing unease among public health experts about Government plans to end the ban on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday.

The latest report is a stark reminder of the impact of alcohol-related disease as the nation's drinking patterns changed over the years.

While several risk factors are linked to liver cancer, such as hepatitis C and B, the report said the increase in alcohol consumption in Ireland in recent decades "is likely to have had a strong influence" in the growing incidence of liver cancer, particularly in men.

Although death from liver cancer was low and relatively stable from 1980 to the later 1990s , averaging 17 female and 23 male deaths a year, they have also risen substantially.

In 2013, 122 women and 184 men died from the disease.

Prof Frank Murray, president of the Royal College of Physicians, warned: "Every day three people die here as a result of alcohol use. This impacts on every family and every community and is placing an increasingly unsustainable burden on the health services.

"Every night, 1,500 hospital beds are occupied as a result of alcohol use, which directly contributes to the number of patients who are forced to wait on trolleys to access hospital care. Alcohol use causes seven types of cancers... this contributes to the €1.5bn spent on hospital discharges annually and the untold misery for so many families."

Health Promotion Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said she intends to bring proposed legislation aimed at curbing alcohol abuse back to the Seanad "as soon as possible".

The provisions of the proposed law, including how it will be sold in shops, has been at the centre of strong lobbying by the alcohol industry and retailers.

"We need to reduce our alcohol intake as a nation and the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will help to address this," she said.

The Bill, which is in the Programme for a Partnership Government, is a measured and evidence-based response to deal with the very real harms caused by alcohol, she said.

The Bill provides for: minimum unit pricing to eliminate very cheap alcohol from stores; health labelling on alcohol products to inform consumers; and separation in stores to restrict location and visibility.

Irish Independent

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