THE IRISH CANCER Society has highlighted the link between alcohol and breast cancer today in a bid to get the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 implemented in Ireland.
It says it wants the bill brought in “without delay”.
Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, said that despite the scientific evidence around the link between alcohol and breast cancer, there is “little public awareness of it”.
“In 2013, in Ireland 12% of breast cancers were caused by alcohol – that’s 353 cases a year. In the same year 69 women died from a breast cancer caused by alcohol,” he said.
If we are to seriously tackle the rising cancer numbers we need to tackle Ireland’s high alcohol consumption rate in tandem. Every year 900 new cancers and 500 cancer deaths are attributable to alcohol.
The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is back before the Seanad today, and Buggy said the ICS is urging politicians to support it. “It is now crucially important to progress it this Dáil term,” he said.
What would the bill do?
The Public Health Alcohol Bill was approved by government on 8 December 2015. It is aimed at reducing alcohol consumption in Ireland to 9.1 litres per year by 2020, and also to reduce the harms associated with alcohol.
In 2015, the average Irish person drank 10.5 litres of alcohol.
The full details of the bill can be read here, but it includes:
- Health labelling of alcohol products
- Minimum unit pricing for retailing of alcohol products
- Regulation of marketing and advertising of alcohol
- Enforcement powers for Environmental Health Officers.
Buggy said that while the society welcomes the bill, it wants it to go further in its labelling provisions “and for a specific warning on alcohol products that highlight the link between alcohol and fatal cancers”.
Amendments to the bill are set to be tabled on this today.
Buggy said that people “are simply not aware of the cancer risk associated with drinking alcohol and we need to ensure they are presented with the facts”.
For every one standard drink a day you drink there is a 7% increase in breast cancer. If you drink 3-6 standard drinks a day you increase the risk by 41%.
The message is to drink less. Of the 900 new cancers each year related to alcohol, half of them could be prevented if people drank within the Department of Health’s guidelines.
He added: “We know from experience in the fight against tobacco that public health legislation like the smoking ban works and that is why it is so important this bill is enacted as soon as possible.”
Between 2011-2012 there were 690 deaths from breast cancer annually and between 2011-2013 there were 2,883 cases of cancer diagnosed annually.
The overall cost of alcohol misuse in Ireland is estimated to cost €2.35 billion, noted the ICS.
Back in 2011, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition showed that 10% of cancers in men and 3% of cancers in women are linked to alcohol consumption.