Science knows about the correlation of cancer and alcohol use since the 1980s.
The International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC), the WHO’s research body, classifies alcohol as class one carcinogen since 1988.
But similar awareness among decision-makers and broader public has not caught up to state of the art understanding of alcohol as a cause of 7 types of cancer.
Today a body of evidence exists and keeps growing, showing how strong the correlation between alcohol use and cancer risk is.
- The IARC estimates (a study in France) that alcohol is 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.
- The World Cancer Report 2014: Alcohol accounts for 3.5% of cancers (about 1 in 30 cancer deaths) globally.
- Recent data indicate that the proportion of cancers attributable to alcohol worldwide has increased.
- In 2012, alcohol consumption caused 5.5% of all cases of cancer and 5.8% of all cancer deaths.
- Globally, in 2010: Alcohol-attributable cancer was responsible for 4.2% of all cancer deaths and 4.6% of all PYLL caused by cancer. Eastern Europe had the highest burden of mortality and morbidity from alcohol-attributable cancer, with 10.3 deaths and 272.0 PYLL per 100,000 people. North Africa and the Middle East had the lowest mortality burden of alcohol-attributable cancer, with 0.6 deaths and 17.1 PYLL per 100,000 people.
- From 1990 to 2010 the absolute mortality burden of alcohol-attributable cancer (measured in deaths and PYLL) and the rates of deaths and PYLL per 100,000 people have each increased.
Moreover cancer is not only a public health issue, and not only a ”rich world” problem, but has wide-reaching social, economic, development and Human Rights implications.
Alcohol remains a major contributor to cancer mortality and YPLL. Higher consumption increases risk but there is no safe threshold for alcohol and cancer risk. Reducing alcohol consumption is an important and underemphasized cancer prevention strategy,” write Nelson et.al.
We Can. I Can. But what is what?
The alcohol industry – contrary to what scientific evidence shows – keeps advertises and portraying alcohol as an integral part of a healthy, glamorous, and adventurous lifestyle.
- The alcohol industry perpetuates the myth of alcohol being healthy for the heart.
- The alcohol industry, however, perpetuates myths about alcohol belonging to party and social success.
- The alcohol industry advertises alcohol aggressively to associate their with glamor, success and sports heroes.
Big Alcohol plays a big role in confusing people, in perpetuating myths about alcohol and in blocking increased awareness of the cancer risk associated with alcohol consumption.