Harmful alcohol use leads to higher cancer risk

A new global study lead by researchers from NUI Galway has drawn a link between harmful alcohol use and an increased risk of alcohol-related cancers such as mouth cancer.

The research, which has been published in the Lancet, analysed data from 12 countries across five continents and involved 114,970 adults who were followed for an average of four years.

Lead researcher Dr Andrew Smyth from NUI Galway said: “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.”

Although current drinking was associated with a 24 per cent lower risk of heart attack, there was no reduction in risk of mortality or stroke and a 51 per cent increase in risk of alcohol-related cancers (such as mouth, aesophagus, stomach, liver, colorectal, breast, ovary and head and neck) and a 29 per cent increase in risk of injury. An increased risk of death was seen in those with high alcohol intake (31 per cent increase) and heavy episodic drinking (54 per cent increase).

Graham Love, the Chief Executive at the HRB, who funded Dr Smyth’s research said: “The HRB national alcohol diary survey last year showed that 54 per cent 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.

“It is very encouraging to see both people that the HRB has funded and the research facilities that we have financed, come together to facilitate Irish participation in such a significant piece of international research.”