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We drink 700 times the 'safe' level of alcohol

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Irish drinking habits are problematic

Irish drinking habits are problematic

Irish drinking habits are problematic

IRISH drinkers quaff way above the European average, with alcohol causing 900 new cancer cases every year.

Drinkers consume about 37g of alcohol a day, 700 times the safe exposure level set by the European Food Safety Authority to prevent cancer from drink.

Prof Peter Anderson delivered the message on Irish drinking habits yesterday at the opening of the Official Conference for the European Week Against Cancer 2013 .

Alcohol, a known carcinogenic agent, causes one in 10 cancers in men and one in 33 in women in Ireland.

 

Stringent

"The guidelines for alcohol consumption are not strong enough, particularly when considering it as a carcinogenic," said Prof Anderson, of the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University.

"There are more stringent guidelines in place for restricting the use of pesticides on fruit than there is for controlling alcohol consumption in humans," he told the conference in Dublin, hosted by the Irish Cancer Society (ICS).

"The Irish Government should legislate against alcohol advertising and sponsorship, as has been the case for tobacco," he said.

"Research has proved that alcohol marketing increases the likelihood of adolescents consuming alcohol.

"Alcohol advertising helps foster more favourable drinking experiences and promotes social approval for consumption.

"It will not be possible for Irish society to develop a healthier relationship with alcohol if alcohol continues to be marketed in such an aggressive fashion," Prof Anderson added.

Kathleen O'Meara of the ICS, said: "Ireland has one of the highest rates of cancer in the world and we can no longer ignore the impact of alcohol.

"When people smoke as well as drink, the two work in combination substantially to increase the risk of cancer."

 

Priority

Alcohol and tobacco are estimated to account for about three quarters of oral cancer cases in Europe, says the ICS.

"Cutting the number of people who will get cancer will require all decision-makers to make this a priority issue and work together to develop solutions," said Ms O'Meara. "This approach is a cornerstone of the ICS's strategy. Bringing cancer experts together will help policy-makers identify ways to reduce the cancer rate.

"We must work now to develop new programmes so that more people can become aware of how they can reduce their risk of cancer, especially those in marginalised communities and lower socio-economic groups," she added.

Figures from Alcohol Action Ireland show that:

* Over half of all Irish drinkers have a harmful pattern of drinking, that is four in 10 women and seven in 10 men who drink, which amounts to an estimated 1,453,250 adults.

* In 2011 (the most recent year for which data is available), the average Irish person aged 15-plus drank over 11.6 litres of pure alcohol.

* The European average for annual alcohol consumption is 10.7 litres.

* If every adult aged 15-plus in Ireland drank to the maximum low-risk weekly limit, average annual consumption would be 9.2 litres.

* Average alcohol consumption in 2010 was 145pc higher than the average amount consumed in 1960.

mlavery@herald.ie


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