Alcohol is a group 1 carcinogen. It is one of the most important causes of cancer after smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.
The aim of this study was to determine cancer incidence and mortality in Ireland (2001-2010) that was attributable to alcohol consumption, with a view to enhancing public awareness.
The Alcohol Attributable Fraction (AAF) for each cancer was calculated from:
o National population 5-year age-specific prevalence data of alcohol consumption 1
o Relative risk estimates of acquiring specific alcohol-related cancers.
National cancer incidence and mortality data were obtained from the National Cancer Registry and Central Statistics Office respectively 2, 3.
Alcohol related cancer incidence and mortality were calculated from the Alcohol Attributable Fraction (AAF) for each cancer known to be causally related to alcohol.
Between 2001 and 2010, 4.7% of all invasive cancers in males and 4.1% in females were attributable to alcohol i.e. 4,585 male cases and 4,593 female cases. Alcohol consumption was causally related to cancer of the upper aero-digestive tract, liver, colon, rectum, female breast and pancreas. The dose response relationship varied for each site. The greatest risk was for the upper aero-digestive tract where 2,961 (52.9%) of all these cancers in males and 866 (35.2%) in females were attributable to alcohol; 12.2% of breast cancers cases were attributable to alcohol. Over the 10-year study period 2,823 (6.7%) male cancer deaths and 1,700 (4.6%) female cancer deaths were attributable to alcohol.
Over half of alcohol related cancers could be prevented by adhering to low-risk alcohol consumption guidelines. Internationally public awareness of the link between alcohol and breast cancer must improve. The greatest potential is for the reduction of upper aero-digestive tract cancers through addressing the detrimental synergistic impact of alcohol with tobacco consumption.