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Alcohol and Cancer – the connection we don’t make


Since 1987, connections between alcohol intake and cancer of the breast, colorectum and liver have also been identified.
If you drink alcohol of any type, limit your intake. 
Not drinking alcohol is better for cancer prevention. 

Volume 96 of the IARC Monographs found there to be ‘sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of alcoholic beverages in humans. The occurrence of malignant tumours of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and liver is causally related to the consumption of alcoholic beverages.’ Indeed, the 2010 monograph identified a relative increased risk for breast cancer for which ‘regular consumption of even 18g of alcohol per day the relative risk is significantly increased. ’18g per day is equivalent to just under 2 regular glasses of wine, 1.3 pints of beer or nearly 6cl of whiskey. Likewise, the monographs confirm an increased relative risk in colorectal cancer for regular drinkers of 50g of alcohol per day.

Need for increased awareness

Experts have known since 1987 that alcohol can cause cancer, but the connection between the two is often unknown, or ignored. Research in Europe has shown that 1 in 10 Europeans do not know about the connection, and that 1 in 5 do not believe that there is a connection between cancer and the drinks.

Low levels of public awareness can be found across Europe, latest survey in France has shown that only 23% of respondents identify it as the second risk factor for cancer after smoking.

The European Union has recognised the need to promote information regarding preventative measures targeted at individuals and public at large.  Since 1987 it leads the initiative of European Code Against Cancer, the current fourth edition has a revised message in terms of alcohol consumption:

If you drink alcohol of any type, limit your intake.
Not drinking alcohol is better for cancer prevention.  

As stated on the European Code Against Cancer website:

There is no doubt that drinking alcohol can cause at least seven types of cancer: those of the mouth, gullet (oesophagus), throat (pharynx and larynx), liver, large bowel (colon and rectum), and breast.
Consumption of any amount of alcohol increases your cancer risk.
The more alcohol you drink, the higher the risk of developing cancer.
Reducing your consumption or – even better – avoiding alcohol completely will help reduce your cancer risk.