Alcohol is estimated to have caused nearly three quarters of a million cancer cases around the world last year, new research suggests.
According to the study published in the Lancet, there is strong evidence that alcohol consumption can cause various cancers including those of the breast, liver, colon, rectum, oropharynx, larynx and oesophagus. The data suggests that even low levels of drinking can increase the risk.
‘It is well established that alcohol consumption increases the risk of several types of cancer, including mouth cancer, colorectal cancer, and breast cancer. Whilst any amount of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer, drinking 14 units a week or less will keep this risk low,’ said Mark Leyshon, Senior Research and Policy Manager at Alcohol Change UK.
Read more: Highest alcohol deaths in England and Wales for 20 years
‘Public awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer, however, remains frustrating poor. Part of the problem is that there are currently no requirements that alcohol manufacturers must provide health information on the labels of their drinks. This means that consumers are being denied vital information that will help them make informed choices around their drinking.’
The researchers also suggest that public awareness appears low. One UK survey cited found only one in 10 people were aware that alcohol could cause cancer. The researchers suggested that alcohol labels should have cancer warnings, that there could be higher taxes on alcohol and that marketing of drinks could be reduced, in order to combat the problem.
Read more: Thousands dying from alcohol-related deaths in the UK
‘Public health strategies, such as reduced alcohol availability, labelling alcohol products with a health warning, and marketing bans could reduce rates of alcohol-driven cancer. Tax and pricing policies that have led to decreased alcohol intake in Europe, including increased excise taxes and minimum unit pricing, could also be implemented in other world regions,’ said Harriet Rumgay, of the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
‘Local context is essential for successful policy around alcohol consumption and will be key to reducing cancer cases linked to drinking.’