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IARC study highlights alcohol's impact on cancer, advocates reduction or cessation

09.01.2024 - An extensive review by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has brought to light pivotal insights on alcohol consumption and its links to cancer. The IARC's Working Group, comprising global experts, evaluated literature on the relationship between alcohol consumption and cancers of various organs.

The study, summarized in The New England Journal of Medicine, underscores a crucial finding: reducing or stopping alcohol intake significantly lowers the incidence of cancers in the oral cavity and esophagus. While evidence for other alcohol-related cancers, such as those of the larynx, colorectum, and breast, is either limited or inadequate, the link between alcohol cessation and reduced cancer risk is clear.

This evaluation, a part of the IARC Handbooks series known for its definitive cancer prevention analyses, marks a first-ever comprehensive review of the impact of alcohol reduction or cessation across seven alcohol-related cancer types.

Key findings include the identification of reversible alcohol-related carcinogenic mechanisms upon cessation. These involve metabolism pathways like acetaldehyde metabolism, genotoxicity, and immune system-related changes. However, gaps remain in understanding the specific duration and pattern of reduction necessary for substantial risk decrease.

The report's conclusions are based on rigorous analysis of various studies, including pooled analyses and meta-analyses, adhering to the IARC's strict evaluation criteria. The findings hold significant implications for public health, reinforcing the WHO's stance on alcohol as a major health concern, with no safe level of consumption established.

As the IARC prepares to release the full Volume 20A of the Handbooks in mid-2024, this evaluation stands as a crucial step in understanding and combating alcohol-related cancer risks.

Source: IARC

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