Drinking alcohol increases risk of developing cancer, WHO study finds
In 2020, more than 740 000 of new cases of cancer around the world were associated with alcohol consumption. according to a study published Tuesday by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The study, published in the journal The Lancet Oncology, found that over 4 percent of all global cancer cases were related to drinking alcohol.
The researchers analyzed available data on population-level alcohol use in 2010 and on cancer cases in 2020. They assumed a 10-year period between alcohol consumption and the appearance of cancer, since the types of cancer included in the study have lengthy development periods and previous evidence of a causal relationship with alcohol consumption.
Of the 741,300 new alcohol-attributable cancer cases diagnosed last year, men represented 568,700 cases, while women accounted for 172,600 cases, the researchers found.
Most of these cancers were in the esophagus, liver and breasts.
"We urgently need to raise awareness about the link between alcohol consumption and cancer risk among policy makers and the general public," said study author Harriet Rumgay, a doctoral student at the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
"Public health strategies, such as reduced alcohol availability, labelling alcohol products with a health warning, and marketing bans could reduce rates of alcohol-driven cancer," she added.
Alcohol use is associated with a vast range of injuries and diseases, including cancer, and is a leading risk factor for the global burden of disease.
“Today, many people across the WHO European Region are still not aware that alcohol is rated as a Group 1 human carcinogen – alongside tobacco, asbestos and radioiodine. There is no safe amount of consumed alcohol. As it passes through the body, it can damage the organs it comes in contact with, causing different types of cancer”, explains Dr Carina Ferreira-Borges, director of WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.
Many religions forbid alcoholic consumption and view it as sinful due to the physical, mental and spiritual harm it has on humans. In Islam, any food or drink that causes intoxication is strictly forbidden.
In the Quran, all kinds of alcoholic drinks are unlawful and referenced as incentives from the Satan.