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Cancer Society of finland

One in three people in Finland will develop cancer at some point during their lifetime. Every year, about 30 000 people are diagnosed with cancer. But two thirds of them recover from the disease.


Things to avoid are smoking, drinking and too much exposure to the sun.


The more alcohol we consume, the higher our risk of developing cancer. Moderate alcohol consumption also increases the risk of cancer.

Alcohol increases the risk of cancer

Alcohol causes about 6% of the Finnish disease burden, including nearly 1,200 cancers each year. Alcohol is one of the most significant lifestyle-related cancer risks.

There is no safe amount of alcohol for cancer: drinking just one daily dose, such as 12 cl glasses of wine, increases the risk of breast cancer by 10%. As the majority of Finns are moderate users, the increase in alcohol consumption in this group increases the number of cancers the most.


It is estimated that lifestyle changes such as smoking and alcohol cessation could prevent 45% of men's and 40% of women's cancers. 


Because major cancer risk factors are also risk factors for other non-communicable diseases, lifestyle changes that are important for cancer prevention also reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, and obstructive pulmonary disease.


A new study by the Finnish Cancer Registry predicted the number of new cancer cases in the future based on risk factors, utilizing THL's Finnish population-based monitoring data. According to the results, smoking is still and will also be in the future the most significant risk factor for cancer, but the importance of obesity and alcohol as risk factors for cancer will also increase in the future. According to a study by the Finnish Cancer Registry, making Finland smoke-free by 2028 would prevent 12,700 new cases of lung cancer over the next 20 years. Eliminating obesity would prevent 4,000 cases of bowel cancer and 4,900 cases of prostate cancer over the next 20 years. Similarly, stopping alcohol use would avoid 3,000 male bowel cancers and 3,000 breast cancers in women.


Source: Syöpäjärjestöt (2017)


Alcohol and woman

Women get drunk more quickly than men because alcohol is water-soluble, and 75 per cent of a man’s body and about 66 per cent of a woman’s body is water. The same amount of alcohol raises a woman’s blood alcohol level higher than a man’s.

A woman is also, on average, smaller in size and lighter than a man, so a woman’s body breaks down alcohol more slowly than a man’s. Because of this, a woman’s brain and liver are exposed for a more extended period and in proportion to a greater amount of alcohol than a man.

The more alcohol we consume, the higher our risk of developing cancer. Moderate alcohol consumption also increases the risk of cancer. Even minimal amounts of alcohol increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Alcohol increases the risk of oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal, oesophagal, liver, intestinal and breast cancers. All alcoholic beverages increase the risk of cancer. It doesn’t matter for cancer, whether a person drinks wine, beer, cider or liquor. The amount of alcohol is crucial.

Find more from Ilman syöpää


Dr Eeva Ollila - As long as alcohol advertising is allowed, campaigns may be of limited effectiveness

More attention to the negative effects of alcohol in terms of increasing many chronic diseases, including cancer, should be paid, argues dr Eeva Ollila, Senior Medical Officer at the Cancer Society of Finland. 

Statement of Finland´s Friends of Sobriety (Raittiuden Ystävät ry, 2017)

The Statement addressed the situation caused by the new proposed Alcohol Act which planned to raise the maximum strength of alcoholic beverages sold in retail stores was to 5.5% alcohol by volume.

The link between alcohol and cancer was scientifically proven in 1988, 30 years ago. At the time, the tobacco industry still made a lot of trouble for researchers who had witnessed or suspected the link between smoking and cancer. Now, tobacco operators have had to bow to an undeniable strength of scientific proof. However, the alcohol industry is still trying to obscure consumer perceptions by rummaging through the closed paths of the tobacco industry.


The lobbying of the alcohol industry is now supported by the grocery trade, both of which have an interest in increasing the production and sale of alcohol - and thus its consumption. The government's proposal is more in the interest of alcohol actors than in the public health and well-being of Finns. Going through, it would increase alcohol consumption by about 7 per cent.

The risk of developing oral, pharyngeal and oesophagal cancer is five times higher for heavy drinkers compared to non-drinkers or occasional drinkers, three times the risk of laryngeal cancer, double the risk of liver cancer and 1.5 times the risk of colon and rectal cancer and breast cancer. This data emerged from a giant international study combining data from 572 peer-reviewed scientific articles dealing with 486,538 cases of cancer.

5.8% of all cancer deaths in the world are linked to alcohol, and all alcoholic beverages increase the risk of cancer. It doesn't matter for cancer whether a person drinks wine, beer, cider or liquor. The amount of alcohol is crucial. The risk of getting cancer for heavy drinkers is five times higher compared to others. As total alcohol consumption increases, more and more at-risk alcohol consumers swinging within the upper limits of reasonable use will become problem users, increasing harms and costs.


The MP deciding on the Alcohol Act should be aware of these facts and also understand the role of alcohol as a cause of cancer when deciding on the content of the Act.

Martti Vastamäki, D.Sc.,

Docent of Hand Surgery 

Chairman, Friends of Sobriety Association

Source: Raittiuden Ystävät

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Only 37 per cent of respondents fully agreed that alcohol use increases the risk of cancer.
Fairly new information on the health risks of alcohol use, such as the risk of alcohol-induced cancer, has not yet been sufficiently highlighted in population communication. More effective communication is needed, especially with alcohol as a risk factor for cancer and sleep and mental health disorders.

Näin Suomi juo report (This is how Finland drinks, 2018)
Finnish institute for health and welfare

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