Drinking epidemic 'fuels surge in cancer'
Round-the-clock drinking and cut-price alcohol are to blame for an 'appalling' rise in cancers, experts warned today.
Cases of cancer of the mouth have gone up by half in the past decade, with a 43 per cent rise in liver tumours. There have also been big rises in breast and colorectal cancer.
Many experts are blaming alcohol consumption, which has doubled in the UK since the 1950s and has been fuelled by Labour's decision to relax licensing laws.
Alcohol link: A study has blamed Britain's drinking culture for an increase in the number of cases of cancer being diagnosed
They are calling for tougher measures to crack down on 2 for 1 offers and price-cutting by supermarkets, as well as the current 24-hour drinking culture.
The latest official figures, obtained from parliamentary questions by the Liberal Democrats, show almost 5,000 in England are diagnosed each year with oral cancers - a 53 per cent increase on 3,225 cases in 1997. There was a 20 per cent jump in cancer of the gullet (oesophagus) from 5,397 to 6,487.
Both types of cancer are linked to heavy drinking, with a fourfold rise in risk for men consuming more than seven drinks a day and women having five drinks or more a day.
Liver cancer cases went up over the same period from 1,925 to 2,754 - with this cancer two and half times more likely to affect heavy drinkers compared with people who do not drink.
Female breast cancer cases rose 33 per cent from 28,618 to 38,048. Heavy drinkers run a 60 per cent extra chance of developing the disease.
Colorectal cancer increased by 14 per cent from almost 27,000 cases to 30,727, with heavy drinking responsible for a 50 per cent rise in risk. Only cancer of the larynx registered a reduction of 8 per cent over the period, down from 1,871 to 1,714.
'Problems escalating': Lib Dem MP Don Foster says it's time to address problems caused by alcohol
Smoking and alcohol are the two main risk factors for oral cancers, which kill around 1,800 a year.
Other contributing factors may be a diet lacking in fruit and vegetables and the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, which can also cause cervical cancer.
The figures follow Cancer Research UK data earlier this year which showed an alarming rise of a quarter in oral cancer rates among men and women in their 40s.
Liberal Democrat spokesman Don Foster, said: 'Excessive drinking has been on the rise for years, and these shocking figures show how dramatically the health problems of booze Britain are escalating. Ministers cannot turn a blind eye to the terrible problems alcohol is causing.
'The Government's failure to cut alcohol consumption now is storing up problems for later. The appalling rise of alcohol-related health problems will only continue unless we crack down on reckless retailers and irresponsible drink offers.'
Recent research by Dr John Foster of Greenwich University, for the Alcohol Education and Research Council, found drinking at home is now routine behaviour for millions.
He said: 'Supermarkets are " normalising" the purchase of a drug for adults that over time is likely to have major health costs, including rising cancer rates.
'Two-for-one offers and discounted bulk buys should be banned.'
Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker said: 'Many people are not aware of the connection between alcohol and cancer yet it can be a major contributor or cause of the disease.'
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