November 21, 2011

Death by Alcohol

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Alcohol consumption is responsible for approximately four percent of all deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence! It´s also responsible for roughly five percent of global disease. A new study of alcohol consumption in Tuscany, Italy has found that alcoholics have significantly higher rates of general and cancer-related death compared to the general population.

“Our study has provided strong evidence that alcohol addiction significantly increases the risk of death from several causes in comparison to the general population in a Mediterranean country,” said study author Domenico Palli, head of the Nutritional and Molecular Epidemiology Unit at the Cancer and Prevention Institute in Florence.

“The alcoholics seemed to be at greater risk of mortality for specific diseases such as infections, diabetes, diseases of the immunological, nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive system, as well as violent causes,” Palli was quoted as saying.

He added that the results clearly showed alcohol´s role as a dietary carcinogen. The highest risks were for cancers of the pharynx, oral cavity, liver and larynx, but also increased the risks of other cancers such as cancer of the esophagus, rectum, pancreas and breast.

The results also showed that female alcoholics reported higher survival rates than male alcoholics.

“Perhaps female alcoholics are more likely to obtain help and achieve remission, tend to benefit more than men from continued participation in treatment programs, and/or tend to be referred to specific alcohol center earlier than men, who often are admitted with advanced disease or only when severe symptoms emerge,” Palli said.

“Women usually live longer than males on average, and are much more keen to control their health status; they also tend to have higher probability of receiving medical interventions due to a different social networking and mutual gender support,” said Emanuele Scafato, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Research & Health Promotion on Alcohol and Alcohol-Related Problems at the Istituto Superiore di Sanita. “

Both researchers emphasized that the research should help foster public awareness about the need for moderate alcohol consumption and healthier lifestyles.

“It is also important for health professionals to increase levels of valid information and competent actions aimed at prevention, early identification, advice and helping people change. It is furthermore one more tool for better dealing with counterproductive and misleading information spread mainly by commercial interests that always give a positive image of drinkers, portraying drinking as a “must” behavior,” Scafato said.

“Those who are advised or believe that one glass could be good for the heart, they should also be aware WHO councils that for many people, females and the elderly for example, just a bit more than a glass increases the risk of 60 diseases and 14 cancers,” Scafato added.

“Clearly alcohol abuse can compromise the structure and functionality of several human organs, thus directly increasing the risk of death,” Palli said. “Other aspects of the characteristic lifestyle of alcoholics — smoking, drug abuse, promiscuity and poor diet — may contribute to this high-risk pattern together with reduced health-consciousness.”

Data was gathered on more than 2,000 alcoholics, predominantly middle-aged, who were treated at the Alcohol Center of Florence during the period of April 1985 through September 2001. Expected deaths were estimated using age, gender and calendar-specific regional mortality rates.

“These results send a clear message about drinking,” Scafato said. “Less is better. Alcohol related cancer is by definition an avoidable cause of premature mortality, morbidity and disabilities.”

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, being published February 2012