Alcohol use has been linked to an increase in various forms of cancer across the world, according to research done by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization.
Some 740,000 new cancer cases globally in 2020, representing a 4 percent rise of all newly diagnosed cases, were linked to alcohol, according to the study published in the July 13 edition of Lancet Oncology. These included esophageal, mouth, larynx, colon, rectum, liver and breast cancer.
Cancer of the esophagus (189,700 cases), liver cancer (154,700 cases), and breast cancer (98,300 cases), accounted for the largest number of new cases, followed by colorectal and cancer of the mouth and throat.
Men accounted for three-quarters of alcohol-related cancer. Of the 172,600 alcohol-related cancer cases diagnosed in women, a majority (98,300 cases) were breast cancer.
A 2018 U.K. survey found that only one in 10 people was aware that alcohol could cause cancer.
Researchers are calling for greater public awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer and want increased government intervention to reduce alcohol consumption in the worst-affected regions.
They also suggested that alcohol labels should carry cancer warnings, that there could be higher taxes on alcohol and that marketing of alcoholic drinks could be reduced.
“Alcohol’s impact on cancer is often unknown or overlooked, so we need increased public awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer, and policies to decrease overall alcohol consumption to prevent the burden of cancers and other diseases attributable to alcohol,” said Harriet Rumgay, a co-author of the study with the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France.
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Most alcohol-caused cancer was linked to heavy or “risky” drinking, but even moderate or low alcohol consumption is believed to have caused cancer.
The data indicated that drinking up to an eight-ounce glass of wine per day contributed to between 35,400 and 145,800 cancer cases globally in 2020.
The highest proportions of cancer cases that could be associated with alcohol (6 percent) were registered in Eastern Asia and Central and Eastern Europe. Northern Africa and Western Asia had the lowest proportions (1 percent).
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