ALCOHOL AND CANCER – an appeal for better prevention

“The new WHO/Europe factsheet, “Alcohol and cancer in the WHO European Region: an appeal for better prevention”, emphasizes causal links between alcohol use and a range of cancers, including some of the most common types, such as female breast cancer and colorectal cancer. It also makes clear that alcohol-attributable cancers and deaths can be reduced through implementation of cost-effective policies, such as increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages and restricting marketing and availability of alcohol.

Alcohol consumption causes some types of cancer and is also associated with dozens of other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Globally, alcohol is responsible for almost 3 million deaths every year, and in the European Region accounts for around 2545 deaths every day. In 2018 alone, around 180 000 cases of cancer and 92 000 cancer deaths were caused by alcohol in the Region.

“This is not just another cancer scare story that people can ignore. We have really strong evidence showing that alcohol consumption, even at low levels, can cause cancers. All types of alcoholic beverages are linked to cancer, with the main carcinogenic compound being ethanol.

“The public needs to know about this; for example, in 2018 in the WHO European Region, alcohol consumption caused about 45 500 cases of breast cancer in women, with 12 100 consequent deaths, and about 59 200 cases of colorectal cancer in women and men, with 28 200 consequent deaths,” said Dr Nino Berdzuli, Director, Country Health Programmes Division, WHO/Europe.

The fact sheet was launched as part of the European Awareness Week on Alcohol Related Harm, 2020.”

Find more from WHO Europe (November 2020)

Fact sheet in different languages can be found here

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