Boozing leads to stomach cancer hike among young Vietnamese

By    July 26, 2016 | 02:10 am PT
Heavy drinkers are at higher risk of contracting the life-threatening disease.

Gastric cancer, also known as stomach cancer, is striking more people under 40 years old in Vietnam, and heavy beer drinkers are at a greater risk, health studies show.

Statistics show that gastric cancer is the leading cause of male cancer deaths in Vietnam, just after lung cancer. The cancer is the third most common cause of cancer deaths in Vietnamese women, after cancers of the breast and cervix. And about two thirds of patients diagnosed with the cancer are in the advanced stages.

Stomach cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in the Southeast Asian country.

The Medical University Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City has in recent years received on average 300-400 new cases of stomach cancer, said Doctor Vo Duy Long.

Long said there has been an increase in cases of stomach cancer among young adults under 40 years old.

The hospital recorded the case of an 18-year-old student who had persistent stomach pains, and test results confirmed the shocking news. The cancer in her stomach was in its advanced stages. According to doctors, it was too late for a total gastrectomy, a complex surgery performed to remove the entire stomach. The patient was given prescription drugs to prolong her life.

A 33-year-old female patient from Quang Ngai Province had experienced persistent symptoms of stomach pain and vomiting for over four months before she went to see a doctor. Dr. Long said the stomach cancer was diagnosed at an early stage, so the patient had a good chance of recovery.

Alcohol abuse linked to stomach cancer

There might be a link between rising beer consumption and the increasing number of people with stomach cancer.

“Of the total alcohol consumed in Vietnam, 94 percent is beer, so it is really part of the Vietnamese culture,” news channel CNBC quoted Leo Evers, managing director of Vietnam Brewery Limited, as saying.

The Vietnam Beer Alcohol Beverage Association has forecast rapid growth at which the country will raise annual beer output by 25 percent to 4 billion liters by 2020.

Over the past five years, Vietnam has doubled its beer consumption to more than 3 billion liters per year. Each Vietnamese person drinks on average 27.4 liters, making them the heaviest beer drinkers in the Southeast Asian region, the third in Asia after Japan and China, and in the world’s top 25 heaviest beer drinkers.

Last year, Vietnam produced an estimated 3.4 billion liters of beer and 300 million liters of liquors.

Drinking alcohol, including beer and liquor, increases the risk of developing cancers of the mouth, upper throat, voice-box, bowels, liver and breast (in women), health experts said.

Researcher Jennie Connor at the University of Otago in New Zealand said there is evidence that alcohol consumption directly causes cancer. She cited evidence that alcohol caused approximately half a million deaths from cancer in 2012, or 5.8 percent of cancer deaths worldwide. The highest risks are associated with the heaviest drinking, but drinkers with low to moderate consumption are also exposed to the risk.

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