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900 people in Ireland diagnosed with alcohol-related cancer every year

The Irish Cancer Society event ‘Decoding Cancer – Alcohol and Cancer: The Sobering Facts’ will see Addiction Psychiatrist Dr Peter Rice address the implications of what we drink on how likely we are to develop cancer. The event takes place at 6.30pm in the Wood Quay venue, Dublin Civic Offices, Dublin 8.

Alcohol is a known cause of seven types of cancer – mouth, throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), gullet (oesophagus), breast, bowel and liver. Overall, 10 per cent of all cancers in men and 3 per cent in women are caused by alcohol.

While there are no ‘safe’ alcohol limits, the more that people drink, the greater the risk of cancer. According to the HSE National Cancer Control Programme, over half of alcohol-related cancers in Ireland are preventable by adhering to low-risk weekly guidelines for alcohol consumption – 11 standard drinks for women and 17 for men.

Dr Rice is Chair of the Executive Committee of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP). SHAAP developed the proposal for Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in 2007 which was adopted by the Scottish Government and became law in 2012. Dr Rice is currently closely involved in the process of implementing MUP, including work with colleagues and institutions elsewhere in the UK and in Europe.

Speaking ahead of the event, Dr Rice said: “My home country of Scotland is similar to Ireland when it comes to the amount of alcohol we drink. But the level of awareness of the cancer risks associated with alcohol is comparatively low – according to EU research, just under seven in ten Irish people know that alcohol causes cancer, while almost all (97 per cent) knew of its links to liver disease.

“This is despite widespread global research which places alcohol in the same group as smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and UV radiation when it comes to dominant lifestyle risks for cancer.

“The good news is that even a small decrease in alcohol consumption can reduce your risk of developing cancer. Through its work in Scotland, my colleagues and I in SHAAP are addressing the issue, and I look forward to speaking with the Irish public about how you can do so too.”

On the night the Irish Cancer Society will also award Dr Rice the Charles Cully Medal. The annual award recognises leadership in the fields of cancer control, cancer prevention, or health policy and provides an opportunity to highlight best practice or innovation in those areas.

The lecture takes its name from one of the most influential founding members of the Irish Cancer Society, who was instrumental in bringing the Daffodil Day concept to Ireland.

Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, Dr Robert O’Connor, commented: “The Irish Cancer Society is delighted to award the Charles Cully Medal to Dr Rice and invite him to give a public talk on the links between alcohol and cancer.

“One in five of all alcohol-related deaths are due to cancer. But our consumption of alcohol is increasing – in 2010 it was 145 per cent higher than the average amount drank in 1960. Irish people drink more than the European average, which stands at 11 litres of pure alcohol per person per year.

“Dr Rice’s experience and knowledge around alcohol is invaluable, so it is hugely important that we acknowledge his work and learn from the steps that have been taken in Scotland to address this issue.”

This event is being held as part of the Irish Cancer Society’s ‘Decoding Cancer’ series of public talks, which aims to dispel some of the myths around cancer and explore the many advances being made through research in prevention, early detection, treatment, and survivors’ quality of life.

The public talk: ‘Decoding Cancer –Alcohol and Cancer: The Sobering Facts’ is free but registration is required. To register and for more information please see cancer.ie/events.

The talk will also be live-streamed on the Irish Cancer Society’s Facebook page – follow the conversation on social media #DecodingCancer.

This talk is supported with funding from the Association of European Cancer Leagues.

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