The European Commission has launched “Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan”. The ambitious plan aims to reduce the cancer burden in the European Union affecting patients, their families and health systems. It will address cancer related inequalities between and within EU Member States with actions to support, coordinate and complement Member States’ efforts. Prevention in general and alcohol policy solutions in particular are central elements in the effort to beat cancer in the EU. Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan contains the target of – at least – a 10% reduction in per capita alcohol use by 2025, as countries had already agreed in 2015 when adopting the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

The Cancer Plan is structured around four key action areas with 10 flagship initiatives and multiple supporting actions. The four key areas are: prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, as well as improving quality of life of cancer patients and survivors.

The European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) has also already announced its backing of the EU wide effort to beat cancer.

BECA Rapporteur Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renew Europe, FR) said, via a European Parliament press release:

Cancer is a disease underpinned by social injustice. We are unequal in terms of prevention, unequally protected against environmental carcinogens, unequally educated in what constitutes risky behaviour, unequally armed against disinformation.

More than 40% of all cancers are preventable if individual, social, environmental and commercial health risk factors are addressed. Ambitious legislative proposals to reduce tobacco and alcohol consumption, to promote a healthy diet and physical activity are steps in the right direction.

Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renew Europe, FR), Rapporteur, European Parliament Special Committee on Beating Cancer

The Cancer Plan will be implemented using the whole range of European Commission funding instruments. It will have €4 billion of funding, including €1.25 billion from the future EU4Health programme.

The European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (SANTE) has put prevention at center stage of the plan to beat cancer in the European Union with a set of specific initiatives:

  1. Promotion of healthy lifestyles,
  2. Achieving a tobacco-free Europe,
  3. Reducing overall alcohol use,
  4. Reducing air pollution, and
  5. Reducing exposure to hazardous substances.

In addition to these five initiatives the prevention pillar also comprises the ‘HealthyLifestyle4All’ campaign that seeks to promote healthy diets and physical activity. And to prevent cancers caused by infections, the Cancer Plan’s objective is to vaccinate at least 90% of the EU target population of girls and to significantly increase the vaccination of boys by 2030.

Heavy cancer burden on European families, communities and societies

According to the European Commission, Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is a political commitment to substantially reduce the burden of cancer. It is another stepping stone towards a strong European Health Union and a more secure, better-prepared and more resilient EU.

In 2020, 2.7 million people in the European Union were diagnosed with cancer, and another 1.3 million people lost their lives to it, including over 2,000 young people.

Without decisive action now, cancer cases are set to increase by 24% by 2035, making it the leading cause of death in the EU.

About 40% of cancer cases are preventable: effective cancer prevention strategies can prevent illness, save lives, and reduce suffering.

Alcohol policy solutions as key tools to prevent cancer and promote health

Under the headline area “Saving lives through sustainable cancer prevention” the Cancer Plan focuses in on alcohol’s role in driving cancer.

The products and practices of the alcohol industry are a major public health concern in the EU. Latest WHO evidence from 20202 showed that in the WHO European region alcohol causes:

  • 2545 deaths every day,
  • 180,000 cases of cancer and 92,000 resulting cancer deaths in 2018 alone,
  • 45,000 cases of breast cancer among women and 12,100 resulting deaths in 2018, and
  • 59,200 cases of colorectal cancer in women and men, with 28,200 consequent deaths in 2018.

The EU’s Cancer Plan stipulates a new commitment from the European Commission to increase support for Member States and stakeholders to implement best practices and capacity-building activities to prevent and reduce alcohol harm in line with the targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Three best buys plus X: Regulating the alcohol industry to prevent cancer

A large part of the alcohol-related cancer burden originates from low-dose alcohol consumption. That means that alcohol-attributable cancer is largely preventable – through evidence-based, cost-effective, and high-impact alcohol policy solutions that affect population-level alcohol consumption.

The overall target of the Cancer Plan is to reduce population-level alcohol use by at least 10% by 2025 – as agreed by countries in 2015 in adopting the SDGs. The Commission will increase support for Member States and stakeholders to implement best practices and capacity-building towards that target.

To achieve the overall target the European Commission will improve the use of three alcohol policy best buys in Europe:

  1. It will review EU legislation on the taxation of alcohol.
  2. It will review cross-border alcohol trade from a public health perspective.
  3. It will reduce exposure of young people to alcohol marketing.

Protecting European youth from the alcohol industry’s marketing will include commercial promotions of alcoholic in traditional as well as new media, including on online video-sharing platforms. While the Commission has not ruled out self-regulation, co-regulation will be a key option to protect youth.

Furthermore, the Commission is set to introduce mandatory alcohol labelling for ingredients and nutritional value before the end of 2023.

Another element of the European Commission’s work to prevent cancer through tackling alcohol harm is better support to Member States for the implementation of evidence-based brief interventions on alcohol in primary healthcare, the workplace and social services.

Movendi International’s advocacy impact

Movendi International engaged in advocacy work to support the European Commission in the development of the Cancer Plan. Movendi members participated in the EU consultation on the Cancer Plan between February and March 2020.

Especially IOGT-NTO and local members across Sweden actively engaged, contributed to the consultation and surely made a significant difference. Movendi Slovakia and even IOGT Vietnam also supported Movendi International’s advocacy.

Movendi International also worked with Member States – especially in the context of the World Health Organization – to raise awareness and empower action to use alcohol policy potential for cancer prevention.

Towards the European Commission Movendi International advocated for a stronger focus on alcohol taxation, cross-border alcohol trade issues, the need to protect (young) people from alcohol promotions and the urgency of improving recognition of the link between alcohol and cancer.

We welcome Europe’s Beating Cancer Day and commend the European Commission for heeding the concerns, input and needs of our members and other European citizens. The new Cancer Plan is a good example of the public interest being prioritized before the alcohol industry’s profits,” says Kristina Sperkova, International President, Movendi International.

The EU’s commitment to support member states to reduce population-level consumption is an important sign that alcohol policy is finally becoming the priority it should be. Using the alcohol policy best buys holds significant potential to protect of people from alcohol industry pressure.

High-impact alcohol policy means cancer prevention and health promotion.”

Kristina Sperkova, International President, Movendi International

For further reading from the blog

3 Reasons Why The Alcohol-Cancer Link Is A Social Justice Issue

Source Website: European Commission