Shocking cost of alcohol damage: £2bn and 135,000 lives

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HEALTH CAMPAIGNERS have warned the NHS faces a financial burden of up to £2bn as research published today has predicted as many as 135,000 lives will be lost due to cancer linked to alcohol over the next two decades.

Analysis has revealed the UK could see an estimated 7,097 cancer deaths linked to drinking every year up to 2035.

The report by from Cancer Research UK also forecasts there will be more than 1.2 million hospital admissions for cancer caused by drinking over the 20 years, which will place an annual cost of £100m on the NHS.

The Government has now been urged to tackle the “deadly effect” which alcohol is having on the nation’s health by considering minimum pricing for a unit of alcohol in England.

The new report found that, over 20 years, a 50p minimum price per unit of alcohol could cut deaths linked to alcohol by 7,200, including 670 cancer deaths, and reduce health costs by £1.3bn.

Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention, Alison Cox, said: “These new figures reveal the devastating impact alcohol will have over the coming years. That’s why it’s hugely important the public are aware of the link between alcohol and cancer.

“If we are to change the nation’s drinking habits and try to mitigate the impact alcohol will have, then national health campaigns are needed to provide clear information about the health risks of drinking alcohol.”

The long-running issue of problem drinking – especially at home behind closed doors – has been a topic that the Government has repeatedly attempted to tackle. Ministers announced in 2008 that they were targeting so-called “middle class wine drinkers” who consume too much alcohol at home under a national strategy.

The Yorkshire Post revealed the same year that a hidden problem of alcohol abuse was blighting one of Yorkshire’s most affluent cities as the middle classes drink to excess in their own homes. York’s affluent districts have been seen as particular problem areas, and plans were drawn up by the city council to warn households about the dangers of excessive drinking.

Scientists are researching how alcohol can cause to cancer, but one theory is that it damages DNA. Evidence suggests the more alcohol a person drinks, the higher the cancer risk, and the UK’s chief medical officers said in January that no level of regular drinking is without a health threat. They said men should consume no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, down from the previous 21 units, bringing them in line with recommendation for women.

The head of the World Cancer Research Fund, Caroline Moye, said every year about 21,000 cancer cases could be avoided in the UK if no -one drank, and added: “This study further adds to the evidence that alcohol is having a deadly effect on the nation.”

But the Alcohol Information Partnership, which receives funding from drinks firms, questioned the figures and claimed the overall cancer death rate linked to alcohol has fallen by 7.5 per cent since 2005.

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