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Recent study highlights alcohol's role in cancer mortality and years of life lost


Alcohol and cancer

25.11.2023 - A significant study published in eClinicalMedicine, led by Harriet Rumgay and her team, provides a detailed analysis of the impact of alcohol consumption on cancer mortality in seven countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This research is crucial in understanding how alcohol and other risk factors contribute to the worldwide burden of cancer.


Alarming statistics: Alcohol's contribution to cancer deaths

The study reports that in 2020, alcohol consumption was responsible for an estimated 326,300 cancer deaths across the countries analyzed. Additionally, alcohol was attributed to causing around 5.9 million years of life lost (YLLs) due to cancer. These numbers highlight the significant role of alcohol as a risk factor in cancer mortality.


China experienced the highest rate of YLLs due to alcohol, with 351.4 YLLs per 100,000 population. In comparison, the United States and India recorded the lowest rates at approximately 113.5 and 115.4 YLLs per 100,000 population, respectively.


Gender differences in alcohol-related cancer risks

The study also notes a marked gender disparity in alcohol-related cancer risks, with men facing higher rates of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths compared to women. This finding underscores the need for gender-specific public health strategies.


Age-standardised years of life lost rate (ASYR, per 100,000 population) from cancer deaths attributable to four risk factors: (a) alcohol consumption, (b) tobacco smoking, (c) excess body weight, (d) human papillomavirus by country and sex in 2020.

Other risk factors in context

Alongside alcohol, the study evaluates the impact of tobacco smoking, excess body weight, and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection on cancer mortality. Tobacco smoking emerged as the leading cause, contributing to 20.8 million YLLs, further stressing the importance of holistic approaches in cancer prevention.


Public health implications and policy recommendations

The findings, funded by Cancer Research UK, stress the need for effective public health policies to mitigate the impact of alcohol and other modifiable risk factors on cancer rates. The study advocates for robust strategies to reduce alcohol consumption and emphasizes the role of public health campaigns and regulations.


Addressing the preventable cancer burden

This research highlights the critical yet preventable role of alcohol and other risk factors in global cancer rates. By focusing on reducing these risk factors, significant strides can be made in decreasing cancer incidence and mortality.


"Our findings underscore the importance of cancer control efforts in reducing the burden of cancer death and YLLs due to modifiable cancer risk factors," the authors state, emphasizing the need for YLLs in summarizing disease burden.


Citation: Rumgay, H., Cabasag, C. J., Offman, J., et al. (2023). International burden of cancer deaths and years of life lost from cancer attributable to four major risk factors: a population-based study. eClinicalMedicine, 102289. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2023.102289.

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