12 December 2019

Tighter alcohol laws might help curb cancer

Researchers are saying that Implementing effective policies to reduce alcohol consumption is a promising means of cancer prevention that merits further investigation.

Policies that reduce drinking may lower rates of alcohol-related cancers, researchers say.

"When thinking about cancer risk and cancer prevention, the focus tends to be on individual-level risk factors rather than environmental determinants of cancer, like public policies that affect the consumption of alcohol or tobacco," said study co-author Dr Timothy Naimi.

Further investigation merited

Naimi is a physician and researcher at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Public Health.

"Implementing effective policies to reduce alcohol consumption is a promising means of cancer prevention that merits further investigation," Naimi added in a medical centre news release.

Alcohol use is linked to at least seven types of cancer. Research suggests that about 20 000 US cancer deaths a year are due to alcohol, the authors said in background notes.

For the new study, the researchers analysed data on cancer deaths per state from 2006 to 2010. They gave each state an alcohol policy score based on 29 regulations, such as alcohol taxes and restrictions on the number of locations allowed to sell booze.

Potential impact of policies

Those policy scores were then related to rates of alcohol-attributable cancers, such as those of the oesophagus, mouth and throat, liver, prostate (among men) and breast (among women).

For all cancers combined, more restrictive alcohol policies were associated with a reduced risk of cancer death. A 10% increase in the strength of alcohol policies was associated with an 8.5% decrease in cancer deaths, the findings showed.

The results were similar among men and women. They highlight the potential impact that public health policies can have on preventing cancers at the population level, according to the study authors. The findings were published online recently in the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions.

Image credit: iStock


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. For more information, visit

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