Alcohol is unnecessarily causing cancer in New Zealand Monday, 27 June 2016

Source: University of Otago, 27 June 2016

A new study* has shown that nearly a third of all alcohol-related deaths in New Zealand are due to cancer; and that the cancers involved include two of the most common cancers in New Zealand - breast cancer in women, and bowel cancer in men and women.

"Given there are about 15 or so alcohol-related deaths a week in New Zealand, five are due to an alcohol-related cancer", said Prof Doug Sellman, medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action NZ, "and these cancers are preventable if alcohol use could be significantly reduced".

"Importantly, the research shows these cancers are not just occurring in people with severe alcoholism, but in fact are occurring more frequently in people drinking at much lower consumption levels. For instance, more than a third of breast cancer cases are occurring in women drinking less than two standard drinks a day. The crucial message is that a prevention strategy must be population-based rather than focussed on people with alcoholism."

"The most effective population-based interventions relate to the excessive commercialisation of alcohol that continues to exist in New Zealand. The Government needs to get on board with the following reforms:

1. Dismantle alcohol marketing

2. Increase the price of alcohol

3. Reduce the overall accessibility of alcohol

4. Raise the purchase age of alcohol

5. Further strengthen drink-driving countermeasures.

"No doubt the industry will react to this new paper with its usual strategy of obfuscation"

"A series of public meetings featuring Prof Jennie Connor, sponsored by Alcohol Action NZ, will to be held in August to further highlight the association between alcohol and cancer."

*Connor JL, Kydd R, Maclennan B, Shield K, Rehm J. Alcohol-attributable cancer deaths under 80 years of age in New Zealand. Drug and Alcohol Review 2016 DOI: 10.1111/dar.12443