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Citizens across the EU are consuming an average of 2 alcoholic drinks per day, placing drinkers at a 21% increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, in addition to other digestive cancers, a report finds.

The report, launched today by United European Gastroenterology, revealed that the average daily intake of alcoholic drinks was ‘moderate’ (between 1 and 4 drinks per day) in all 28 EU states, placing these citizens at a heightened risk of both colorectal and oesophageal cancer.

‘Heavy’ drinkers (people that consume more than 4 drinks per day) were found to be at an increased risk of pancreatic, liver and gastric cancer. These three cancers, coupled with colorectal and oesophageal cancer, are the five most common digestive cancers worldwide, causing almost three million deaths per year and contributing to over a third of global cancer deaths.

No countries within the EU were found to have ‘light’ alcohol consumption (on average, less than 1 alcoholic drink per day per capita).

The European Alcohol Endemic

Alcohol consumption across the European region is higher than in any other region in the world, with over one fifth of the European population over the age of 15 drinking heavily at least once a week. As a result, the continent suffers from the highest proportion of ill health and premature death directly linked to alcohol.

Despite high levels of consumption throughout Europe, research shows that as many as 90% of people are unaware on the link between alcohol and cancer.

In light of these alarming statistics, tackling the harmful use of alcohol is a main priority for the upcoming Estonian presidency of the Council of the European Union.

How to Tackle Europe’s Alcohol Crisis

Consumers are provided with mixed-messages on recommended units, glasses and volumes of alcohol. UEG are therefore calling for a pan-European approach to the provision of clear and consistent information about the health risks of drinking alcohol to help eradicate confusion on appropriate levels of consumption.

Professor Markus Peck, leading digestive health expert, comments; “One of the main challenges in addressing high drinking levels is how deeply embedded alcohol consumption is within the European society, both socially and culturally. Political action like minimum pricing and reducing access to alcohol needs to be taken now to prevent many future casualties. Research then has to follow to help generate data and allow us to fine-tune future political activity”.

Increased pressure on the alcohol industry to develop clear and responsible labelling, together with a tightening of regulations on the marketing of alcohol, are other important steps outlined within the report to help tackle the crisis. France is a country leading the way in this regard, where stricter marketing, coupled with regulations for drinking at work, has contributed to a decline in alcohol consumption and digestive cancer incidence as a result.

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