Cancer

03 November 2016

People unaware that alcohol can cause cancer

Researchers calculated that alcohol was responsible for an estimated five percent of all new cancer cases.

0

Alcohol consumption caused more than 700,000 new cancer cases and around 366,000 cancer deaths in 2012, mainly in rich countries, according to data reported to the World Cancer Congress in Paris.

Strongly linked to breast cancer

Comparing the cancer risk of people who drink to that of people who do not, researchers calculated that alcohol was responsible for an estimated five percent of all new cancer cases, and 4.5 percent of deaths per year.

"A large part of the population are unaware that cancer can be caused by alcohol," study co-author Kevin Shield of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), told AFP of the preliminary report, not yet published.

Read: Computer model to help heavy drinkers

Alcohol was most strongly linked to new breast cancer diagnoses – more than one in four of all alcohol-attributable cancer cases, the researchers found, followed by colorectal cancer at 23 percent.

Mechanism still unknown

For breast cancer, particularly, it was clear that "the risk increases with the dose" of alcohol, said Shield.

Measuring alcohol's contribution to cancer deaths, the researchers found it was most strongly linked to oesophagus cancer fatalities, followed by colorectal cancer.

The IARC, the cancer agency of the World Health Organisation (WHO), lists alcohol as a "group 1 carcinogen", which means it is considered cancer-causing, though Shield said the mechanism was "not exactly known".

Read: Alcohol: moderation is key

Globally, the burden was highest in north America, Australia and Europe, particularly eastern Europe, but this was slowly changing as people in developing nations start imbibing more, the researchers said.

Read more:

Alcohol blood test

WHO tackles alcohol issue

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders

 

Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst and Head of Advocacy Magdalene Seguin. For more information, visit cansa.org.za.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules