Wednesday 21 March 2018

Don’t drink except on special occasions, cancer chief warns

The Irish habit of drinking every week has to stop, the hear of the Irish Cancer Society has warned
The Irish habit of drinking every week has to stop, the hear of the Irish Cancer Society has warned
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

IRISH people must completely rethink their drinking and indulge only on special occasions, the head of a cancer charity has warned.

John McCormack, the CEO of the Irish Cancer Society, said the current practice for the majority of Irish people of drinking every week must stop.

“I think people are only coming to terms with the fact that 900 people in Ireland die every year from an alcohol-related cancer,” he said.

“That’s almost 20 people every week dying from a cancer that’s linked to alcohol, so it is really important that alcohol is included in the list of ways that we can reduce the risks of cancer.”

Read more: Emily Hourican's cancer diary: I just want to go home, to my three kids, back to work, back to my life

Mr McCormack said that, in general, the Irish public had embraced measures to help reduce cancer risks including a decrease in smoking and more exercise. He added that people must now focus on minimising alcohol intake.

“What’s really important is that 40pc to 50pc of cancers can be prevented, so we really have to get Ireland into a stage in life where people are taking on board life-changing cancer prevention ways of living,” he said.

“We’re making a lot of progress – our smoking rate has fallen to below 20pc, our smoking rate in children is really low, there are more people out taking physical activity, covering up in the sun and being a healthy weight, but it’s really important to minimise alcohol.”

Mr McCormack urged a total rethink of drinking habits.

“It’s everyday drinking, it’s families who gather at the weekend and they gather over a bottle of wine. That needs to stop. Maybe at Christmas or if there’s a birthday, but not every weekend,” he said. “Keep the alcohol for special occasions.


“Look at the amount you’re drinking. If you have problems with your drinking, get help, get information. There’s plenty of information on our website.”

Mr McCormack said Ireland currently has a world-class cancer service but added that it was important that the Government keeps investing in it.

Read more: Cancer may cause damage to the heart - research

“We’re about to launch a new cancer strategy and it’s really important that the necessary investment goes with the strategy,” he said.

“The future for cancer care is very much about survivor-ship. We have over 130,000 people now in Ireland living with cancer. When the Irish Cancer Society was founded 50 years ago, nobody survived cancer.

“Nowadays, at least 50pc of people who get cancer end up beating it.”

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