Alcohol Caused More Than 741,000 Cancer Cases Last Year, Study Finds

by : Emily Brown on : 17 Jul 2021 16:44
Alcohol Caused More Than 741,000 Cancer Cases Last Year, Study FindsPA Images

Alcohol is estimated to have caused more than 741,000 cancer cases last year, with the majority of cases involving cancers of the oesophagus, liver and breast.

Existing evidence strongly suggests that alcohol consumption can cause various cancers, though the researchers involved in this study believe the links are ‘often unknown or overlooked.’


To indicate exactly how many cancer cases alcohol can cause globally, the team used data such as existing alcohol consumption estimates for 2010 and risk estimates for cancers known to be linked to alcohol and combined the figures with existing estimates of new cancer cases expected for 2020.

People cheers with shots (Pexels)Pexels

The researchers used estimates of cancer cases to avoid disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and noted the importance of a ‘latency period between the year of alcohol exposure data and the year of cancer diagnosis’, with co-author Harriet Rumgay explaining there is a ‘delay between alcohol consumption and possible cancer development.’

Through the data, the researchers estimate that alcohol consumption was responsible for 568,700 cancer cases in men and 172,600 cases in women in 2020.


Though the majority of estimated cancer cases in the study involved cancers of the oesophagus, liver and breast, the proportion of cases deemed to be caused by alcohol was highest for cancers of the oesophagus, pharynx, and lip and oral cavity when looking at the causes of each cancer type separately, The Guardian reports.

Person pouring pint (Pixabay)Pixabay

Most alcohol-caused cancer cases were linked to heavy drinking, though the data indicated that drinking up to 10g of alcohol a day, which equals a half pint or small glass of wine, contributed to between 35,400 and 145,800 cases globally in 2020.

In the wake of the findings, Rumgay said members of the public need to become more aware of the link between alcohol and cancer, and that policies need to be introduced to decrease overall alcohol consumption and reduce the ‘burden of cancers’, as well as other alcohol-related diseases.


If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, 8am–8pm seven days a week.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Life, Alcohol, Cancer, drinking, no-article-matching


The Lancet Oncology
  1. The Lancet Oncology

    Global burden of cancer in 2020 attributable to alcohol consumption: a population-based study