The first New Zealand conference on the association between
alcohol use and cancer is being held at Te Papa, Wellington on
Wednesday (17th June).
It has been documented in in the scientific literature for at
least 50 years that alcohol is carcinogenic, and it has been
scheduled as a Group 1 carcinogen (an agent that directly causes
cancer) by the World Health Organisation's International Agency for
Research on Cancer (IARC) since 1988. However, this information is
not familiar to the public of New Zealand.
"Recent Canadian research has shown low but increasing public
awareness of the association between alcohol and cancer over the
past two decades from 21% in 1996 to 36% in 2012" said Prof Doug
Sellman, medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action NZ.
"Similar patterns are likely here, with the majority of New
Zealanders being unaware of such an important linkage. This is of
concern given that alcohol consumption is so common, involving 90%
of the population 15 years and over".
"More than 800 people under 80 years of age die every year of
alcohol-related causes in New Zealand, and nearly a third of them
die of an alcohol-related cancer" said Prof Jennie Connor, another
medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action NZ.
"In fact, breast cancer is the most common cause of
alcohol-related death in New Zealand women, both Maori and
"This conference will highlight the association between alcohol
and cancer from basic science through clinical aspects to a
comprehensive epidemiological view, and then discuss effective ways
in which the incidence of alcohol-related cancer in New Zealand can
Prevention approaches will need to include policies to reduce
the level of alcohol consumption across the population, affecting
alcohol marketing, pricing, accessibility, age of purchase and
drink-driving plus increased treatment for heavy drinkers (the 5+
Solution). National and international challenges to these reforms
will be discussed.