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Red alert on rise in alcohol-related deaths


Alcohol.<br />Photo: Washington Examiner

Recent local and international studies have alerted to rise in alcohol related deaths.

The researches identified fifteen most common health risks of chronic heavy drinking to include: liver disease; pancreatitis (a painful inflammation of the pancreas that often requires hospitalization); cancer; ulcers and gastrointestinal problems; immune system dysfunction; brain damage; malnourishment and vitamin deficiencies; osteoporosis (brittle bone disease); heart disease; accidents and injuries; osteoarthritis; obesity; kidney failure; diabetes; hypertension; and stroke.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria ranks 27th worldwide in volume of alcohol in liters, consumed per capita per year, and it is the fourth leading country in alcohol consumption in Africa.


A general practitioner and consultant family physician at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Dr. Babatunde Akodu, told The Guardian: “You should not be drinking more than a bottle of beer weekly.

A bottle of beer contains about the same calories with your three meals consumed daily.

If you are a heavy drinker you will not be able to lose weight, you are more likely to be overweight. Heavy drinkers are prone to osteoarthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, liver disease and even erectile dysfunction.”

The physician argued that the volume of alcohol consumed, genetics, gender, body mass, and general state of health all influence how a person’s health responds to chronic heavy drinking.

Several studies have shown that when the body takes in more alcohol than it can metabolize, the excess builds up in the bloodstream.

The heart circulates the blood alcohol throughout the body, leading to changes in chemistry and normal body functions.

Even a one-time binge-drinking episode can result in significant bodily impairment, damage, or death. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of many chronic diseases and other serious health problems.

The majority of alcohol metabolism takes place in the liver; while with other organs contribute to alcohol metabolism as well.

Research suggests that many of the toxic effects of alcohol are due to the body is coming in contact with acetaldehyde, the carcinogenic byproduct of alcohol metabolism.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and World Cancer Research Fund have concluded that there is strong evidence for a causal relationship between alcohol consumption and cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, larynx, and breast.

According to IARC, 770,000 (5.5 per cent) of the 14.1 million new cancer cases reported worldwide in 2012 were attributable to alcohol consumption.

In contrast, consumption of mild to moderate quantities of alcohol has an inverse association with risk of thyroid cancer.

A study published in the journal Frontiers in Oncology August 24, 2017, identified cancers attributable to alcohol consumption in Nigeria.

The researchers concluded: “Our study shows that 4.3 per cent of incident cancers in Nigeria can be prevented by avoiding alcohol consumption.

While the incidence of cancers associated with alcohol intake is high, the proportion attributable to alcohol consumption is much lower suggesting that the number of cancers that may be prevented by eliminating alcohol intake in this population is relatively low.”

The researchers obtained data on incidence of cancers from two population-based cancer registries (PBCRs) in Nigeria and identified cancer sites for which there is strong evidence of an association with alcohol consumption based on the International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph 100E.

They computed the Population Attributable Fraction (PAF) for each cancer site by age and sex, using prevalence and relative risk estimates from previous studies.

The results showed: “Between 2012 and 2014 study period, the PBCRs reported 4,336 cancer cases of which 1,627 occurred in males, and 2,709 occurred in females.

Of these, a total of 1,808 cancer cases, 339 in males and 1,469 in females, were associated with alcohol intake.

The age standardized incidence rate (ASR) of alcohol-associated cancers was 77.3 per 100,000.


Only 4.3 per cent (186/4,336) of all cancer cases or 10.3 per cent (186/1,808) of alcohol-associated cancers were attributable to alcohol consumption.

Some 42.5 per cent (79/186) of these cancers occurred in males while 57.5 per cent (107/186) occurred in females. The ASR of cancers attributable to alcohol in this population was 7.2 per 100,000.

The commonest cancers attributable to alcohol consumption were cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx in men and cancer of the breast in women.”

In contrast to the increased risk of the several cancers with alcohol consumption, the researchers found the risk of thyroid cancer decreases with light and moderate alcohol intake.

Alcohol intake may have a protective effect on developing thyroid cancer by decreased levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone, the growth factor associated with thyroid cancer.

They said another potential biological mechanism is that alcohol may have a direct toxic effect on thyroid cells and reduce thyroid volume, which might lead to a decreased risk of thyroid cancer.

The researchers include: Michael Kolawole Odutola from the Institute of Human Virology (IHV), Abuja; Elima E. Jedy-Agba from IHV and Department of Non-communicable Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom (UK); Eileen O. Dareng from the Center for Cancer Genetic Epidemiology, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK; Sally N. Adebamowo from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, United States (US); Emmanuel A. Oga from the Battelle Memorial Institute, Baltimore, MD, US; Festus Igbinoba from the National Hospital Abuja, Abuja; Theresa Otu from the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada; Emmanuel Ezeome from the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu; Ramatu Hassan from the Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja; and Clement A. Adebamowo from IHV and Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, US.

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