select search filters
roundups & rapid reactions
before the headlines
Fiona fox's blog

expert reaction to study of alcohol and cancer

A study published in The Lancet Oncology looks at the global burden of cancer in 2020 attributable to alcohol consumption.


Prof Mark Petticrew, Professor of Public Health Evaluation at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:

“This large robust study provides further clear evidence that alcohol consumption contributes to a significant burden of cancer, particularly heavy drinking. This emphasises the need to raise public awareness of this risk factor for cancer, which unfortunately is currently low with a lot of misinformation out there, some from the alcohol industry itself. The public needs clear independent information, and this study makes a significant contribution to clarifying the risks”.


Dr Sadie Boniface, Head of Research at the Institute of Alcohol Studies and Visiting Researcher at King’s College London, said:

“This is a comprehensive and well-designed study of the global burden of cancer attributable to alcohol consumption. The authors used alcohol sales data as the basis for measuring alcohol consumption, which overcomes some of the limitations of asking people about their drinking using surveys.

“What is new about this study is the global international comparison, broken down by sex and cancer type.

“The results are in line with other studies, and scientists already knew that alcohol causes seven types of cancer. There is an increased risk of breast, oesophageal, mouth and throat cancer starting from low levels of alcohol consumption, and also an increased risk of liver and colorectal cancers at higher levels of drinking.

“The study found roughly 1 in 20 (4%) cancer cases in the UK are linked to alcohol. However there is low public awareness of this risk, particularly for breast cancer.

“The lower risk drinking guidelines and the health risks of alcohol have not been well communicated. The forthcoming consultation on alcohol labelling will be a real opportunity to introduce independent health information on alcohol products, so consumers can make fully informed decisions about their drinking.

“Beyond labelling, the authors recommend policies for reducing alcohol-attributable cancers that target alcohol pricing, availability, and marketing. Such policies have a strong evidence base for reducing alcohol harm. In the UK, we need such policies as part of a comprehensive alcohol strategy in the wake of the pandemic to address alcohol’s burden on the NHS.”



‘Global burden of cancer in 2020 attributable to alcohol consumption: a population-based study’ by Harriet Rumgay et al. was published in The Lancet Oncology at 23.30 UK TIME on Tuesday 13th July 2021.




Declared interests

Dr Sadie Boniface: “I work at the Institute of Alcohol Studies which receives funding from the Alliance House Foundation.”

None others received.


in this section

filter RoundUps by year

search by tag