What you need to know:
- Study noted that there is a need for effective policy
- There is low awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer risk
A new study has linked alcohol consumption to about 740,000 cancer cases diagnosed globally last year.
The study, published in the Lancet Oncology journal shows that breast, liver, colon, rectum, oropharynx (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth), lip, oral, larynx (connects the throat and windpipe) and oesophageal cancers were associated with drinking alcohol.
The researchers said that close to three-quarters of cancer cases linked to alcohol were in males (568,700) and the remaining (189,700) in females. The areas in the body that had the most impact were oesophageal, liver and breast (in females).
“There are several biological pathways by which the consumption of alcohol, as ethanol, can lead to cancer development, including DNA, protein and lipid alterations or damage by acetaldehyde, the carcinogenic metabolite of ethanol; oxidative stress; and alterations to the regulation of hormones such as oestrogen and androgen,” the researchers explained.
“Ethanol might also promote cancer development indirectly by acting as a solvent for other carcinogenic agents such as chemicals in tobacco,” they added.
The study noted that there is a need for effective policy and interventions to make the general public aware of the risk they could be facing when they take alcohol.
While the World Health Organisation has come up with some strategic advice to countries, such as increasing taxation, making the items scarce, and significantly limiting marketing of alcohol, very few countries have implemented these.
“In the sub-Saharan African regions where heavy drinking had the largest contribution to alcohol-attributable cases, only 16 of 46 countries have national or sub-national alcohol strategies,” said the study.
Adding: “There is low awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer risk among the general public, but adding cancer warnings to alcohol labels, similar to those used on tobacco products, might deter people from purchasing alcohol products and increase awareness of the causal link.”