World Cancer Day is a global event.

World Cancer Day is marked on February 4, every year, to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. World Cancer Day was founded by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to support the goals of the World Cancer Declaration, written in 2008. The primary goal of the World Cancer Day is to significantly reduce illness and death caused by cancer by 2020.

There are multiple initiatives run on World Cancer Day to promote prevention, raise awareness and show support for those affected by cancer.

Turning the tide on alcohol-fuelled cancer

Alcohol-related cancer deaths are a global public health crisis.For breast cancer globally, alcohol is the single biggest risk factor.In total, alcohol-related cancer causes 650,000 deaths every year.

Evidence shows that informing people, increasing awareness and understanding of alcohol’s cancer risks leads to bigger support for alcohol prevention and control measures. This in turn leads to significant reductions in cancer mortality.

We calculated the cancer deaths averted from improved alcohol policy through a 10% and a 30% total per capita alcohol consumption reduction scenario.

  • Assuming 649,840 alcohol-related cancer deaths in 2017, a 10% reduction of total alcohol use would lead to 9% fewer alcohol-related cancer deaths, meaning 57,300 fewer deaths.
  • With a 30% lower total alcohol consumption, calculations show that 26% of alcohol-related cancer deaths could be averted, meaning 171,460 fewer deaths.

So let’s start the movement to raise awareness among the broader public and empower decision-makers to tackle the alcohol-cancer link. The returns on investment will be substantial…

Social media campaign assests


Professor Jürgen Rehm says:

The fact that alcohol is a carcinogen has been clearly confirmed.”

The IARC working group writes:

There is sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of alcohol consumption.

Alcohol consumption causes cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, colorectum, liver (hepatocellular carcinoma) and female breast.”

Key Messages

We can. I can.

Science knows about the correlation of cancer and alcohol use since the 1980s.

The International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC), the WHO’s research body, classifies alcohol as class one carcinogen since 1988.

But similar awareness among decision-makers and broader public has not caught up to state of the art understanding of alcohol as a cause of 7 types of cancer.

Today a body of evidence exists and keeps growing, showing how strong the correlation between alcohol use and cancer risk is.

  • The IARC estimates (a study in France) that alcohol is behind 8% of all cases of cancer: 11% in men and 5% in women. After tobacco (18%), alcohol is thus the second biggest cause of cancer, long before other risk factors such as infections (3%), physical inactivity, or sunlight.
  • Recent data indicate that the proportion of cancers attributable to alcohol worldwide has increased. From 1990 to 2010 the absolute mortality burden of alcohol-attributable cancer (measured in deaths and PYLL) and the rates of deaths and PYLL per 100,000 people have each increased.
  • In 2012, alcohol consumption caused 5.5% of all cases of cancer and 5.8% of all cancer deaths.

Moreover cancer is not only a public health issue, and not only a ”rich world” problem, but has wide-reaching social, economic, development and Human Rights implications.

Alcohol remains a major contributor to cancer mortality and YPLL. Higher consumption increases risk but there is no safe threshold for alcohol and cancer risk. Reducing alcohol consumption is an important and underemphasized cancer prevention strategy,” write Nelson

We Can. I Can. Challenge alcohol industry myths.

The alcohol industry – contrary to what scientific evidence shows – keeps advertizing and portraying alcohol as an integral part of a healthy, glamorous, and adventurous lifestyle.

  1. The alcohol industry perpetuates the myth of alcohol being healthy for the heart.
  2. The alcohol industry, however, perpetuates myths about alcohol belonging to party and social success.
  3. The alcohol industry advertises alcohol aggressively to associate their with glamor, success and sports heroes.

Big Alcohol plays a big role in confusing people, in perpetuating myths about alcohol and in blocking increased awareness of the cancer risk associated with alcohol consumption.

We can. I can. Raise awareness.

Too few people around the world know about the fact that alcohol is a huge cancer risk and that it causes 7 types of cancer. There is no safe amount of alcohol use and there is no healthy alcohol use either.

Nobody would take a pill that’s good for the heart but that also causes 7 types of cancer.

We can I can. Advocate for alcohol policies to prevent cancer.

Alcohol control is cancer control.

The fewer people use alcohol and the less they consume, the better for their health and the smaller is their cancer risk.

This matters also for cancer survivors. And it matters for the people who are not using alcohol at all. They should continue to live free from alcohol. Evidence-based alcohol policy measures, such as taxation, marketing regulation and availability restrictions, all help prevent cancer.

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  2. IARC Monographs – 100 E: “CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES”Consumption of alcoholic beverages was considered by previous IARC Working Groups in 1987 and 2007 (IARC, 1988, 2010). Since that time, new data have become available, these have been incorporated into the Monograph, and taken into consideration in the present evaluation.
  3. IARC Cancer Site by site
  4. Praud, Rehm, Zatonski et. al.: “Cancer incidence and mortality attributable to alcohol consumption” (2015)
  5. Jürgen Rehm, Ph.D. and Kevin D. Shield, MH.Sc.: “Alcohol and Mortality: Global Alcohol-Attributable Deaths From Cancer, Liver Cirrhosis, and Injury in 2010”
  6. Cao Y, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci EL.,: “Light to moderate intake of alcohol, drinking patterns, and risk of cancer: results from two prospective US cohort studies.” BMJ. 2015;351:h4238.
  7. Nelson et. al., in: Am J Public Health. 2013 April; 103(4): “Alcohol-Attributable Cancer Deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost in the United States
  8. EPIC Study: Schütze M et al. “Alcohol attributable burden of incidence of cancer in eight European countries based on results from prospective cohort study.” BMJ. 2011 Apr 7;342:d1584. PMID: 21474525
  9. World Cancer Report 2014
  10. 2011 Global Cancer Statistics
  11. The Guardian article on the global cancer surge
  12. British Medical Journal (BMJ): “Alcohol attributable burden of incidence of cancer in eight European countries based on results from prospective cohort study”
  13. World Bank. Policy Measures: The Growing Danger of Non-Communicable Diseases. Acting Now to Reverse Course
  14. WHO: Facts
  15. World Economic Forum (WEF) and Harvard School of Public Health: The Global Economic Burden of Non-communicable Diseases