Press Release
Alcohol Causes Cancer. What Are We Going To Do About It?

For immediate release: February 4, 2015
Media contact: Maik Dünnbier
  • Phone
    +46 721 555 036
  • E-mail
    maik.duennbier@iogt.org
  • Twitter
    @maikduennbier

Two Overlooked Facts And Three Measures For Change

New York, United States, World Cancer Day, February 4 — IOGT International, along with several global partners and in recognition of World Cancer Day, calls on nations to recognize the connection between alcohol use and cancer, which has been known by scientists at least since the 1980’s.

Joining IOGT International is the US Alcohol Policy Alliance, the New York Alcohol Policy Alliance, the Harlem Health Promotion Center of Columbia University, and the Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness.

The International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC), the WHO’s research body, has been classifying alcohol as carcinogenic since 1988.  In the last decade a body of independent evidence has emerged showing how strong the correlation is between alcohol use and cancer risk. Alcohol is one of the biggest risk factors for cancer diseases.

Cancer is  a public health issue. Moreover, cancer is not only a ”rich world” problem, but has wide-reaching negative social, economic, development and Human Rights implications. Simply put: it can wreak havoc on economies. The heavy burden of alcohol-related cancer on societies around the world is compounded by lack of awareness and lack of political will.

World Cancer Day is an important opportunity for us in IOGT International and our partners to address and highlight two fundamental facts about the carcinogenicity of alcohol,” said Kristina Sperkova, President of IOGT International.

And it’s a day to mobilize political will in order to take decisive action against the alcohol-related cancer burden.”

  1. Too few people know the correlation and too many believe alcohol is healthyIn the Western world, despite all scientific evidence, the carcinogenicity of alcohol is largely understated. A European Union study showed that on average only 36% of EU citizens know about alcohol’s role in cancer. In the USA, the awareness is even weaker. Too many people around the world still believe in health benefits of alcohol but evidence shows that there is no safe amount of alcohol use. The newly updated European Cancer Code states that not using alcohol is better for prevention of cancer.
  2. Alcohol is the second biggest risk factorThe IARC estimates (a study in France) that alcohol lies behind 8% of all cases of cancer: 11% in men and 5% in women. After tobacco (18%), alcohol is thus the second biggest cause of cancer, long before other risk factors such as infections (3%), physical inactivity, or sunlight.
  3. Three Measures for change: controlling and preventing cancerThe global costs of cancer in 2010 were $290 Billion and it is projected that the costs would increase to $458 Billion by 2030, with the current level of inaction.
    Cancer imposes a tremendous burden on low- and middle-income countries: 99% of the cancer patients in those countries die without pain treatment.
    Cancer, as one major disease of the Non-communicable disease epidemic (killing 36 million people annually, cancer killing ca. 8 million), can largely be prevented – especially those cancer diseases caused by alcohol use. WHO, World Bank and other acclaimed international bodies promote measures that are cost-effective and high-impact – the three best buys: to ban alcohol advertising, to increase alcohol taxation, and to decrease the availability of alcohol, for example through limiting outlet density and reducing opening hours.

Alcohol-related cancer is largely preventable through implementation of evidence-based policy measures – known as three best buys,” said Kristina Sperkova.

Going forward, IOGT International will invest to empower even more young people to join the conversation about alcohol and cancer. Additionally, IOGT International will increase efforts to build capacity of decision-makers around the world. There are also plans for innovative methods to raise awareness. And IOGT International joins the New York Alcohol Policy Alliance in convening a high-level symposium on alcohol and cancer in New York City on April 16 of this year.

We’re excited to join our global colleagues in an effort to focus the United States on the connection between alcohol and cancer. Considering that alcohol is one of the leading preventable causes of cancer, the time to do so is now,” said Robert Pezzolesi, Founding Director of the NY Alcohol Policy Alliance.

 

The alcohol industry works aggressively to perpetuate myths about their product in order to keep people from becoming aware about alcohol’s health risks, like cancer,” explained Kristina Sperkova.

We in IOGT International are stepping up our efforts in 2015 to promote awareness among the broader public. We believe people have a right to know. We’re also committed to stepping up our efforts in enabling decision-makers to implement high-impact alcohol policy measures that help prevent pubic health and societal burdens like cancer.”

— END

Evidence sources:

World Cancer Report 2014

British Medical Journal (BMJ): “Alcohol attributable burden of incidence of cancer in eight European countries based on results from prospective cohort study”

IARC monograph

WHO Fact sheet

World Bank: “The Growing Danger of Non-Communicable Diseases. Acting Now to Reverse Course

World Economic Forum (WEF): “The Global Economic Burden of Non-communicable Diseases”