Evidence base for alcohol causing cancer 'is strong'

27 July 2016

A new review of existing evidence has offered support for the assumption that drinking alcohol can increase a person's risk of cancer.

Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand looked at data from the last ten years generated by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research, the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the Global Burden of Disease Alcohol Group.

The review cites evidence that alcohol caused approximately half a million deaths from cancer in 2012, or 5.8 per cent of cancer deaths worldwide. A causal association between alcohol consumption and cancers at seven sites in the body - the oropharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast - was seen.

Previously, only a basic association - meaning a relationship of some kind between the two variables - between cancer and alcohol was observed, but this review indicated a causal association, meaning there is evidence that alcohol consumption directly causes cancer.

The causal link was supported by evidence for a dose-response relationship and at least a partial reversal of risk when alcohol consumption is reduced. The highest risks were associated with the heaviest drinking, but a considerable burden is shared by drinkers with low to moderate consumption.

Posted by Philip Briggs


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