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How can Ireland reduce lifestyle-related cancer rates?

A Seanad committee has come up with what it believes are some answers to tackling Ireland’s high incidence of cancer.

A SEANAD COMMITTEE has made a number of recommendations around alcohol, food and smoking in an effort to reduce cancer rates in Ireland.

The report by the Seanad Public Consultation Committee looks at how the Government and society can respond to the challenge of encouraging changes in lifestyle to prevent certain cancers.

Ireland is currently second in the world for incidences of cancer, and the report focuses on smoking, obesity and alcohol use, three things which can all lead to lifestyle-related cancers. The recommendations include:


  • A ban on cigarette vending machines
  • Price reductions on nicotine replacement drugs
  • Mandatory plain packaging for cigarettes


  • Nationwide weight management programmes
  • Healthy eating guidelines
  • Physical activity programmes for schools
  • A funded campaign to increase breast-feeding
  • Early-years nationwide diet and nutrition programmes for parents


  • A minimum floor price for alcohol
  • A national information campaign on alcohol consumption and cancer
  • Mandatory label warnings about cancer

‘Alarming projections

Committee Chairman Senator Denis O’Donovan said that Ireland has some of the highest cancer rates in the world, but changes in lifestyle can prevent approximately one third of cancers.

Our Committee heard alarming projections of new cancer cases in Ireland increasing by up to by 72 per cent by 2030, with lifestyle factors a significant component in that increase. Consequently, the report is particularly focused on educating young citizens on the value of a healthy diet, physical activity and weight management.

The recommendations have been welcomed by Alcohol Action Ireland, but its director, Fiona Ryan, said:

It is hard reading the report, however, not to be reminded that we heard these recommendations voiced a year ago almost to the day when the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group delivered its report.

She questioned what progress is being made on the key substantive recommendations contained in the National Substance Misuse Strategy.

“We would also like to see legislation introduced so that all packaged alcohol will not only have to provide health warnings on the link between alcohol and cancer, but information on calories – as alcohol is a major factor in obesity, which also increases the risk of cancers,” said Ryan.

The full report can be read online here.

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