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Alcohol-related disease claims 6000 lives annually


Alcohol-related diseases are being blamed for causing the deaths of nearly 6000 Australians each year.

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A study by the National Drug Research Institute at Western Australia’s Curtin University has found an estimated 5785 people aged over 15 died from alcohol-attributable causes in 2015.

Just over a third died from alcohol-attributed cancer, with injuries, cardiovascular disease and digestive diseases linked to 17 per cent of deaths.

“This research shows that in Australia, one person dies every 90 minutes on average, and someone ends up in our hospitals every three-and-a-half minutes, because of preventable conditions caused by alcohol,” NDRI alcohol policy team leader Professor Tanya Chikritzh said.

Breast cancer and liver disease were the main causes of death for women, while most men died from liver disease and bowel cancer.

As well as the 2000 people who died from alcohol-attributable cancer, another 13,000 were hospitalised with cancers linked to low or moderate drinking levels.

Terry Slevin, education and research director at Cancer Council WA, said many people would be shocked to learn that more than one-third of alcohol-related deaths were linked to cancer.

“We rarely see people with a cancer diagnosis link their drinking to the disease,” he said.

“We have a long way to go to embed the notion that drinking alcohol genuinely increases risk of cancer and death.”

The study said while national trends in alcohol-attributable deaths appeared to have remained fairly stable over time, there had been a slight increase in hospitalisation rates between 2003 and 2013.

More than 144,000 hospitalisations were linked to alcohol in the 2012/13 financial year, with most cases linked to alcohol dependence and falls.

Top five causes of alcohol-attributable deaths for women

Breast cancer – 18 per cent

Liver diseases – 15 per cent

Haemorrhagic stroke – 10 per cent

Colorectal (bowel) cancer – 10 per cent

Lower respiratory infections – 9 per cent

Top five causes of alcohol-attributable deaths for men

Liver diseases – 18 per cent

Colorectal (bowel) cancer – 10 per cent

Oesophageal cancer – 8 per cent

Oropharyngeal cancer – 6 per cent

Suicide – 6 per cent

Source: National Alcohol Indicators report by the National Drug Research Institute


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