Europe: Alcohol Fuels Digestive Cancer Risk
A new report links alcohol use to an increase in cases of digestive cancer.
The report warns decision-makers to take immediate action.
According to the World Health Organisation, some 3.3 million deaths around the world – 5.9% of all premature deaths – result from alcohol use annually. Europe is the continent with the highest consumption rate of alcohol worldwide.
United European Gastroenterology (UEG) published a report, warning that the alarming alcohol consumption in Europe is linked to a rise in digestive cancers.
UEG President Michael Manns said to Euractiv:
We urgently require a focused multi-dimensional approach from policy and decision makers to dramatically increase public and healthcare professional awareness of the dangers of alcohol […] and strategies to reduce alcohol intake and the resulting incidence of digestive cancers.”
Even “moderate” alcohol use is risky
EU citizens consume an average of two alcoholic drinks per day. According to the report, alcohol users face a 21% increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, in addition to other digestive cancers.
The survey found that all EU countries had a ‘moderate’ average daily intake of alcoholic drinks, meaning between one and four drinks per day. “This places these citizens at a heightened risk of both colorectal and oesophageal cancer,” the report stressed.
Regarding ‘heavy’ alcohol users or those who consume four or more alcoholic drinks per day, the report stressed they 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 3 million deaths per year and contributing to over a third of global cancer deaths,” the report pointed out, underlining that there is no EU country that had an average daily alcohol consumption of less than one drink per capita.
Lack of awareness and absence of political will
A worrying factor is the low public awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer in general.
According to the latest Eurobarometer survey, one in ten EU citizens is unaware of the connection and one in five does not even believe that there is a link between cancer and alcohol consumption.
The European Commission has been ignoring calls from the European Parliament, Member States and civil society for an updated and improved EU Alcohol Strategy. Instead the European Commission keeps relying on self-regulation by the alcohol industry, which has been proven to be ineffective.