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Irish people's binge drinking could increase our risk of cancer

More than half of people who drink do so irresponsibly.

drinks Source: Shutterstock

MORE THAN HALF of Irish people who drink do so in a ‘harmful manner’ and it could be increasing their risk of cancer, researchers have warned.

A study carried out by the HRB Clinical Research Facility at NUI Galway showed that 54% of Irish people who drink do so irresponsibly, with 75% of all drinking done in ‘binge’ sessions (drinking six standard drinks or more).

A separate 12-country analysis across five continents has found that harmful alcohol use is linked with increased risk of alcohol-related cancers.

Dr Andrew Smyth of NUI Galway led the research, which interviewed 114,970 adults.

The research team was centred in McMaster University in Ontario, Canada and looked at information from 12 countries. It did not include interviewees from Ireland. However, the researchers have said we can learn important lessons from the study.

Among the almost 115,000 adults monitored for an average of four years, about 36,000 people reported drinking alcohol.

Drinking was associated with a 51% increase in risk of alcohol-related cancers (such as mouth, oesophagus, stomach, liver, colorectal, breast, ovary and head and neck) and a 29% increase in risk of injury. The risk was higher in lower income countries.

An increased risk of death was seen in those with high alcohol intake (31% increase) and heavy episodic drinking (54% increase).

Public health policy

Graham Love, the Chief Executive at the HRB Clinical Research Facility, said public health policy makers in Ireland should take these findings on board.

“The HRB national alcohol diary survey last year showed that 54% of Irish people who drink, do so in a harmful manner.”

When you consider our national level of harmful drinking with these global findings it points to the potential for serious health consequences for Irish drinkers into the future. We must use quality research evidence like this to inform individual choices and public health policy in relation to alcohol.

“Our data would support the call to increase global awareness of the harmful use of alcohol and the need to further identify and target the modifiable determinants of harmful alcohol use,” Smyth added.

The full study can be read on The Lancet.

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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