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Majority unaware of alcohol's cancer risks, Estonian study reveals

24.10.2023 - The Estonian National Institute for Health Development (TAI) started an awareness campaign on October 2nd, alerting the public to the fact that alcohol consumption increases the risk of at least seven different cancers: oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal, oesophagal, liver, colorectal, and breast cancer in women.

According to the World Health Organization, alcohol consumption is associated with 740,000 new cancer cases worldwide every year. Raising public awareness of preventable cancer risks, including the carcinogenic effects of alcohol, is one of the activities planned within the national cancer control strategy to reduce lifestyle and health behaviour-related cancer incidence in Estonia.

The need for such information was confirmed by a study conducted in 2022 titled “Residents' Attitudes and Opinions on Alcohol Consumption” (EHAAT). The results revealed that people are unaware of alcohol as a cancer risk factor. Most are familiar with the link between alcohol consumption and liver cancer. 64% of respondents associated alcohol consumption with liver cancer, but only 11% considered themselves at risk due to their alcohol consumption. 27% linked alcohol to mouth, pharynx, and oesophagus cancers, with only 5% seeing themselves at risk. For colorectal cancer, the figures were 27% and 5%, respectively. The lowest awareness was about the link between alcohol and breast cancer - 89% of women were unaware of the connection.

“Since alcohol is widely available, people perceive it more as a regular food item and do not see a direct risk related to cancer in its consumption. Greater awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer risks helps individuals make more informed decisions about whether and how much to consume, and what benefits or harm they derive from it. Consumers have the right to know that by drinking alcohol, they increase their risk of cancer," said Anneli Sammel, TAI's head of the alcohol and tobacco division.

Based on research, it can be stated that the link between alcohol and cancer risk is evident – the more one consumes, the higher the risk. There is no completely safe level of alcohol consumption; even light and moderate drinking increases the likelihood of developing cancer. Regardless of the level of alcohol consumed, it is always wise to reduce it, as this helps decrease the risk of cancer.

Source: TAI

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