Life in litres
Cancer reduction findings
DRINKING three litres less a year of alcohol per capita could prevent more than 5500 people dying from cancer over two decades, according to new Melbourne research.
The findings from the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University also found smoking half a kilogram less annually per capita would reduce the country’s cancer deaths by around 3600 over 20 years.
Lead researcher Dr Jason Jiang said his team looked at drinking and smoking rates stretching back to the 1930s.
They were then able to estimate that if alcohol consumption dropped by three litres a year per capita it would reduce cancer-related deaths over 20 years by 12 per cent.
Whereas a reduction in per capita consumption of tobacco of half a kilogram would result in an 8 per cent drop.
In 2014 there were 45,908 cancer deaths among Austra- lians aged 15 and over. Dr Jiang said most of the previous research focused on the impact of changes in individual consumption, but it was important to understand the effect of policy changes at a population level.
“This kind of study can help inform the future of public health policies,” he said.
“It provides evidence that a decrease in population-level drinking and tobacco smoking could lead to a reduction in cancer mortality.”
Knowing there is an almost 20-year lag time between changes being made to curtail consumption and the impact on cancer rates could also help better monitor the effectiveness of policy changes.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.