Deaths From Alcohol-Related Conditions On The Rise in UK

By May Wilkerson 03/08/16

A study estimates that 10 million adult drinkers in the UK could be putting themselves at higher risk of heart disease and cancer. 

Deaths From Alcohol-Related Conditions On The Rise in UK
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Liver disease and alcohol poisoning deaths may be decreasing in the UK. But England’s high alcohol consumption continues to take a serious toll on people’s health.

Deaths from conditions for which booze is a contributing factor—like heart disease and various forms of cancer—have increased, according to new data released this week from Public Health England (PHE).

Specifically, deaths from bowel and breast cancer (alcohol is a contributing factor for both) rose last year, PHE found. And overall, deaths from alcohol-related conditions rose 1%—from 22,779 deaths in 2013 to 22,967 in 2014. These conditions include heart disease, oesophagus and mouth cancer, breast and bowel cancer, and Type 2 diabetes. At the same time, deaths from conditions directly caused by alcohol, like alcoholic liver disease (or cirrhosis) and alcohol poisoning have gone down. 

“While it is a positive trend that alcohol-related deaths in some parts of the country have fallen, in others there has been an increase,” noted Izzi Seccombe, the Local Government Association's community and wellbeing spokeswoman.

Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at PHE, estimated there are about 10 million adult drinkers in the UK who could be putting themselves at higher risk of heart disease and cancer. And women who drink are “20% more likely to get breast cancer than those that don't,” he said.

PHE plans to present a report to the government explicitly outlining suggestions for reducing the number of deaths related to alcohol. “Alcohol harms individuals, families and communities and it's crucial that, alongside effective local interventions and treatment for those that need it, we look more widely at what affects drinking behaviour in this country,” said Fenton. 

According to UK cancer charities, an estimated 24,000 cancer cases could be avoided every year in the country if people gave up drinking entirely. “We recommend that, when it comes to cancer prevention, people avoid alcohol as much as possible, as any amount increases the risk of cancer,” said Sarah Toule, head of health information at the World Cancer Research Fund. “If people are going to drink, then they should have no more than seven drinks a week spread over at least three days.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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