Scientists calculate alcohol cancer burden

In collaboration with the Press Association

Alcohol consumption is a direct cause of around 3.6 per cent of cancers and around 3.5 per cent of all cancer deaths, say scientists.

The study, which analyzed international data gathered in 2002, found that worldwide there were around 389,000 cancers directly attributable to alcohol over the year.

Around 232,900 people died due to alcohol-related cancers and associated complications during the year.

Men were the hardest hit, with alcohol responsible for 5.2 per cent of all cancers, compared to 1.7 per cent of all women.

"A causal link has been established between alcohol drinking and cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, oesophagus, colon, rectum, liver, larynx, and breast," said researcher Dr Paolo Boffetta.

"For other cancers, a causal association is suspected."

Among men, more than 60 per cent of the cancers were found in the upper digestive tract, while breast cancers were found in around 60 per cent of the women affected.

The researchers noted that moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce the risks of heart disease, strokes and gall-stones among people aged 50 and over, however.

"The burden of alcohol-associated cancer should be considered in the light of the evidence that alcohol drinking modifies the risk of numerous other diseases," said the study.

The research was carried out by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France and is published in the International Journal of Cancer.

Find out more about the link between alcohol and cancer