Alcohol’s link to cancer and other harms
Thanks to lobbying by the powerful alcohol industry in the US, alcohol’s dangers are underplayed and its benefits exaggerated.
There are many well-established problems with drinking alcohol, even at moderate levels that likely outweigh any potential benefits.
Alcohol is the third-leading cause of premature death in the US and one of the leading modifiable causes of death worldwide, while receiving some of the least media and policy attention.
Worryingly, the number of deaths attributed to alcohol increased by 25% between 2019 and 2020 – a faster rate of increase than for the percentage increase in all deaths – 17% – in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These death rates increased most rapidly among people ages 25 to 44.
The lifetime prevalence of alcohol use disorder – defined as an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational or health consequences – is nearly 30%. In other words, nearly a third of the population has been severely impacted by their drinking at some point in their lifetime.
Alcohol use, even at low levels, is linked to a number of cancers, including breast, colorectal, liver and esophagus.
Alcohol contributes to approximately 75,000 cancer cases and 19,000 cancer deaths per year.
Furthermore, a recent study found that more than 50% of adults in the US are unaware of the cancer-related risks of alcohol consumption.
Alcohol also causes a number of serious harms to others, many of them violence-related. These include increased risk of child maltreatment, physical abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual assaults and gun violence.
Alcohol-involved traffic fatalities in the US – after several decades of decreasing – ticked up by 14% to 11,654 in 2020.
Source: The Conversation