Alcohol consumption increases the risk of several types of cancer, including several common cancers | Drug and Alcohol Review
As part of their corporate social responsibility activities, the alcohol industry (AI) disseminates information about alcohol and cancer. We examined the information on this which the AI disseminates to the public through its ‘social aspects and public relations organizations’ and related bodies. The aim of the study was to determine its comprehensiveness and accuracy.
Most of the organisations were found to disseminate misrepresentations of the evidence about the association between alcohol and cancer. Three main industry strategies were identified:
denial/omission: denying, omitting or disputing the evidence that alcohol consumption increases cancer risk.
distortion: mentioning cancer, but misrepresenting the risk.
distraction: focussing discussion away from the independent effects of alcohol on common cancers. Breast cancer and colorectal cancer appeared to be a particular focus for this misrepresentation.
Alcohol will cause around 135,000 cancer deaths over the next 20 years and will cost the NHS an estimated £2 billion in treatments, according to estimates from a new report by Sheffield University, commissioned by Cancer Research UK
The new figures, published today (Friday), reveal that by 2035 the UK could see around 7,100 cancer deaths every year that are associated with alcohol. Of the cancer types included in the report, oesophageal cancer is set to see the largest increase, followed by bowel cancer, mouth and throat cancer, breast cancer and liver cancer.
The report also forecasts that there will be over 1.2 million hospital admissions for cancer over the 20 year period, which will cost the NHS £100 million, on average, every year.
The results were based on analyses that assume alcohol drinking trends will follow those seen over the last 40 years, and takes recent falls in alcohol consumption, including among young people, into account.
Evidence suggests that the more alcohol you drink, the higher the risk of cancer. UK government guidelines, published earlier this year, advise that both men and women drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
Zhao, J. et al. BMC Cancer. Published online: 15 November 2016
Background: Research on a possible causal association between alcohol consumption and risk of prostate cancer is inconclusive. Recent studies on associations between alcohol consumption and other health outcomes suggest these are influenced by drinker misclassification errors and other study quality characteristics. The influence of these factors on estimates of the relationship between alcohol consumption and prostate cancer has not been previously investigated.
Conclusion: Our study finds, for the first time, a significant dose–response relationship between level of alcohol intake and risk of prostate cancer starting with low volume consumption (>1.3, <24 g per day). This relationship is stronger in the relatively few studies free of former drinker misclassification error. Given the high prevalence of prostate cancer in the developed world, the public health implications of these findings are significant. Prostate cancer may need to be incorporated into future estimates of the burden of disease alongside other cancers (e.g. breast, oesophagus, colon, liver) and be integrated into public health strategies for reducing alcohol related disease.
Cancer Research UK. Published online: 1st April 2016
Almost 90 per cent of people in England don’t associate drinking alcohol with an increased risk of cancer, according to a new report commissioned by Cancer Research UK.
Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of seven different cancers – liver, breast, bowel, mouth, throat, oesophageal (food pipe), laryngeal (voice box) – but when people were asked “which, if any, health conditions do you think can result from drinking too much alcohol?” just 13 per cent of adults mentioned cancer.
The survey also highlighted a lack of understanding of the link between drinking alcohol and the risk of developing certain types of cancer. When prompted by asking about seven different cancer types, 80 per cent said they thought alcohol caused liver cancer but only 18 per cent were aware of the link with breast cancer. In contrast alcohol causes 3,200 breast cancer cases each year compared to 400 cases of liver cancer.
The report, produced by researchers at the University of Sheffield, comes ahead of the consultation closing on how well new drinking guidelines proposed by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers in January 2016, are communicated. These drew attention to the link between alcohol and cancer, and highlighted the need for greater public awareness of this risk. The findings are based on a nationally representative online survey of 2,100** people conducted in July 2015.
The study also showed that only one in five people could correctly identify the previous recommended maximum number of units that should not be exceeded in a day, as recommended at that time in 2015. Among drinkers, as few as one in 10 men (10.8 per cent) and one in seven women (15.2 per cent) correctly identified these recommended limits and used them to track their drinking habits.
In her latest Science blog, Aine McCarthy looks at the question, How does alcohol cause cancer? Research is slowly revealing more about how alcohol causes cancer, and the theories discussed in this post are the ones with the strongest supporting evidence.
Aine examines how and why seven types of cancer are linked to alcohol.
International Journal of Cancer: Published online October 2015
Alcohol consumption is a major cause of disease and death. In a previous study, we reported that in 2002, 3.6% of all cases of cancer and a similar proportion of cancer deaths were attributable to the consumption of alcohol. We aimed to update these figures to 2012 using global estimates of cancer cases and cancer deaths, data on the prevalence of drinkers from the World Health Organization (WHO) global survey on alcohol and health, and relative risks for alcohol-related neoplasms from a recent meta-analysis.
Over the 10-year period considered, the total number of alcohol-attributable cancer cases increased to approximately 770,000 worldwide (5.5% of the total number of cancer cases) – 540,000 men (7.2%) and 230,000 women (3.5%). Corresponding figures for cancer deaths attributable to alcohol consumption increased to approximately 480,000 (5.8% of the total number of cancer deaths) in both sexes combined – 360,000 (7.8%) men and 115,000 (3.3%) women.
These proportions were particularly high in the WHO Western Pacific region, the WHO European Region and the WHO South-East Asia region. A high burden of cancer mortality and morbidity is attributable to alcohol, and public health measures should be adopted in order to limit excessive alcohol consumption.
Even light and moderate drinking (up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men) is associated with an increased risk of certain alcohol related cancers in women and male smokers, suggests a large study published by The BMJ today.
The study, which involved almost 136,000 people, found women who drank the equivalent of a glass of wine a day over a 30-year period were 13% more likely to develop one of the alcohol-related cancers (breast cancer being the most common) than women who didn’t drink at all.
The study found low to moderate drinking increased the risk of certain types of cancers already thought to be linked to alcohol, but only among women or people who smoked. Men who didn’t smoke and drank moderately had no increased risk of any type of cancer.