- The Age (theage.com.au)
People who both smoke and drink are increasing their risk of head and neck cancer at a much higher rate than those who indulge in just one, researchers in Perth say.
The Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH) commissioned a desk top study to coincide with the introduction of new laws in Western Australia to ban smoking in all pubs and clubs.
University of WA epidemiologist Dr David Preen has surveyed more than 300 scientific papers on the topic and says it is not just a matter of adding the risks of smoking to the risks of heavy drinking.
“Where you might have a threefold increased risk for smoking and a twofold increased risk for heavy alcohol consumption, you could have anywhere between a 10 or a nine to 15 times increased risk if you combined the two behaviours,” Dr Preen said.
“Less than five per cent of the population are aware of this fact,” said Dr Preen.
ACOSH President Prof Mike Daube said the new study was invaluable.
“There is more evidence, there is more comprehensive evidence and it covers more cancers,” said Prof Daube.
“There’s really good news for drinkers (who also smoke) … which is that if you give up smoking you significantly reduce your risk of some very, very nasty cancers,” he said.
Prof Daube said 75 per cent of the 200 head and neck cancer deaths each year in Western Australia, occurred among people who were both smokers and drinkers.
The state government said it expected another 63,000 West Australians would quit as a result of the new laws.
This was based on research conducted by the Victorian Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, said Health Minister Jim McGinty, which had found that 25 per cent of smokers would quit if it were banned in social venues.
“The linkage between smoking and drinking and cancer of the neck and head are now very well established,” Mr McGinty said.
The new laws come into effect in Western Australia on July 31.