Daily Archives: 05/02/2014

Longer term health risks of drinking

I read this with interest in the Guardian yesterday:

Global cancer surge fuelled by alcohol, smoking and obesity predicted by WHO

A global drive to tackle the causes of cancer linked to lifestyle, such as alcohol abuse, sugar consumption and obesity, has been urged on Monday by the World Health Organisation as it predicted the number of new cases could soar 70% to nearly 25 million a year over the next 20 years.

Half of these cases are preventable, says the UN’s public health arm in its World Cancer Report, because they are linked to lifestyle. It is implausible to think we can treat our way out of the disease, say the authors, arguing that the focus must now be on preventing new cases.

In relation to alcohol, for instance, we are all aware of the effects of being intoxicated but there is a burden of disease not talked about because it is not recognised,” he said.

The report shows that alcohol-attributable cancers were responsible for a total of 337,400 deaths worldwide in 2010, mostly among men.

The majority were liver cancer deaths, but drinking alcohol is also a risk for cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, bowel, stomach, pancreas, breast and others.

Alex Andreou published a first thoughts comment on the WHO document where he rightly identifies that the issue is not all about personal responsibility but also how the actual recommendations of the report were ignored by the media. He argues that:

They [the media] talk of more money going into early detection, of regulating food and drink manufacturers more tightly, of a tax on sugared drinks, of clearer labelling on alcohol, of incentives on banning smoking in public places. But the responsibility of manufacturers not to make unhealthy products and market them aggressively and the responsibility of the state to regulate big business are being airbrushed out of the report.

As a public health nurse I completely concur and feel that it should be a balance of personal and corporate responsibility with health organisations, such as the NHS and Public Health England,  providing guidance to the public and government enforcement of legislation to support the national public health agenda.