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Alcohol is one of the biggest risk factors for breast cancer

Thursday October 21st 2021

Women should decrease their alcohol intake to help reduce their risk of developing breast cancer, the World Health Organization has urged.

The WHO European Region has the highest rate of new breast cancer diagnoses of all WHO Regions, with 1,579 women diagnosed with every day, and estimates from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that alcohol consumption was responsible for almost 40,000 new breast cancer cases in the Region in 2020.

Out of the two million cases diagnosed globally in 2020, about 100,000 were attributable to alcohol consumption, it said.

Dr Marilys Corbex, senior technical officer on noncommunicable diseases at WHO/Europe, said: “Many people, including women, are not aware that breast cancer is the most common cancer caused by alcohol among women globally. People need to know that by reducing alcohol consumption they can reduce their risk of getting cancer. It doesn’t matter what type, quality or price alcohol is.”

Alcohol is classified as a Group 1 human carcinogen by IARC and it is causally linked to seven types of cancer: oral cavity, pharynx, oesophagus, liver, larynx, colorectum and female breast cancer.

Dr Carina Ferreira Borges, acting director for noncommunicable diseases and programme manager for alcohol and illicit drugs at WHO/Europe, said: “Simply put, alcohol is toxic. It harms every organ while it passes through the body, so it makes perfect sense to limit the amount of consumed alcohol, to find ways to replace alcohol with other beverages, and to adopt nationwide policies that help to reduce alcohol consumption.”

WHO has called for alcohol to be made less affordable, by increasing excise taxes, banning or restricting alcohol marketing across all types of media and reducing alcohol availability, by regulating sale hours.

It has also recommended countries in the WHO European Region to place health warnings on labels of alcoholic drinks.

Tags: Cancer | Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Europe | Women's Health & Gynaecology | World Health

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