Story at a glance:
- More than 740,000 cancer cases around the world in 2020 were linked to drinking alcohol.
- One in 10 people in a U.K. survey in 2018 knows alcohol could cause cancer.
- Men get cancer from drinking alcohol more than women.
Alcohol has been estimated to be linked to more than 740,000 cancer cases around the world in 2020, but it does not get discussed enough, experts say.
A strong correlation between consuming alcohol and various cancers in the breast, liver, colon, rectum, oropharynx, larynx and esophagus is present through new research published in The Lancet Oncology. Even social and responsible drinking could increase the risk of developing cancer, The Guardian reported.
Still, only 1 in 10 people in a U.K. survey in 2018 knew alcohol could cause cancer.
To combat the risks that factor into getting cancer, researchers say alcoholic products need a warning label.
They also believe alcohol should be taxed higher than it is now, and there needs to be less marketing of alcohol drinks.
Study co-author Harriet Rumgay of the International Agency for Research on Cancer told The Guardian, “Alcohol’s impact on cancer is often unknown or overlooked, so we need increased public awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer, and policies to decrease overall alcohol consumption to prevent the burden of cancers and other diseases attributable to alcohol.”
Rumgay and colleagues calculated existing alcohol consumption estimates for 2010 and the risks factored into drinking, including sales figures and taxes.
“There is a delay between alcohol consumption and possible cancer development, so it is necessary to factor in a latency period between the year of alcohol exposure data and the year of cancer diagnosis,” Rumgay said.
With new cancer cases expected for 2020, researchers combined those figures with existing estimates, including records from previous years and not affected by the COVID-19 disruptions.
Out of the 741,300 cases in 2020, alcohol consumption caused 568,700 cancer cases in men, The Guardian reported. The remaining 172,600 were women.
The majority of the cancer cases affected patients in their esophagus, liver and breast, but separately looking into each type of cancer, the most common patients were affected in their esophagus, pharynx, and lip and oral cavity.
While heavy drinking is thought to cause many of the cancers, even modest drinking was linked to some cases, leading the authors to conclude that there is no safe level of alcohol when it comes to cancer, although cutting back reduces risk.
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