Irish liver cancer rates up 300 per cent in two decades

High cancer rates ‘simply a result of drinking too much’.

The number of primary liver cancers in Ireland increased by more than 300 per cent between 1994 and 2014, according to figures from the country’s National Cancer Registry.

More than 270 patients were diagnosed in both 2013 and 2014, compared to an average of around 60 in the mid-1990s, says Cancer trends: primary liver cancer, with rates three times higher in men than in women. ‘The increase in alcohol consumption observed in Ireland in recent decades is likely to have had a strong influence on the increase observed in HCC [hepatocellular carcinoma] incidence, particularly in men,’ it states. Men in urban areas were also 64 per cent more likely to develop liver cancer than those in rural districts, with male incidence in Dublin ‘statistically significantly higher than the national average’.

Although liver cancer rates in Ireland are higher than in the UK, they are still below those in many European countries, with Italy, France, Spain and Romania at the top of the list. Survival rates in Ireland are poor, however, with the latest estimate of five-year survival standing at less than 20 per cent.

The figures were ‘startling’, said the Irish Cancer Society, with the high incidence rates ‘a result of decades of people in Ireland simply drinking too much,’ according to its head of research, Dr Robert O’Connor. ‘One in five of all alcohol-related deaths are due to cancer. But our consumption of alcohol is increasing – in 2010 it was 145 per cent higher than the average amount drank in 1960,’ he said.

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