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Put down booze, it’s killing you: study

A decade ago alcohol was responsible for 3,430 deaths per year. Now that figure stands at 5,554. Photo Flickr.com/einalem

A decade ago alcohol was responsible for 3,430 deaths per year. Now that figure stands at 5,554. Photo Flickr.com/einalem

If Australians put down the booze, national cancer deaths will drop, according to new research.

A one-litre decrease in annual alcohol consumption per capita had significant reductions in head, neck and liver cancer mortality, a study across a 20-year period has found.

For head and neck cancer deaths it was associated with an 11.6 per cent drop in males and 7.3 per cent reduction in females, and a 15 per cent reduction in male liver cancer mortality.

The study is published by the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR) and Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).

Titled Alcohol consumption and liver, pancreatic, head and neck cancers in Australia: time-series analyses, the research is the first suggestive evidence that a decrease in population drinking could reduce the prevalence of deaths from the three cancers.

The study also found a higher death rate for men and women aged 50 and over from head and neck cancers, reflecting the long-term effects of alcohol consumption on the development of the disease.

“This study has extended our understanding of the role that alcohol plays with respect to liver, pancreatic, head and neck cancers in Australia, and the importance of addressing the nation’s alcohol consumption levels” lead author, CAPR’s Dr Jason Jiang said.

National guidelines suggest an adult should drink no more than two standard drinks on any day to reduce the lifetime risk of harm attributed to alcohol.

“There is no doubt that alcohol-related cancers would be significantly reduced if more of the population reduced their alcohol consumption and followed the national drinking guidelines,” FARE chief executive Michael Thorn said.

“The study exposes the need for improved public health education campaigns, better public health policies on alcohol, and more promotion of the guidelines – to reduce the toll of cancer-related diseases and deaths in Australia.”


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