Alcohol consumption

Findings call for implementation of cancer control policies and efforts to reduce alcohol consumption

A new study finds that alcohol consumption accounts for a sizable share of cancer incidence and mortality in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The article, which appeared in Cancer epidemiology, indicates that the proportion of cancer cases attributable to alcohol consumption ranged from a high of 6.7% in Delaware to a low of 2.9% in Utah. Similarly, Delaware had the highest proportion of alcohol-related cancer deaths (4.5%) and Utah the lowest (1.9%).

This study by Farhad Islami, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the American Cancer Society is the first to estimate contemporary proportions and numbers of alcohol-attributable cancer cases and deaths for all states. The data shows that the proportions were generally higher in New England and Western states and lower in Midwestern and Southern states.

“This information is important for prioritizing state-level cancer prevention and control efforts to reduce alcohol consumption and the burden of alcohol-related cancers,” Dr. Islami said.

The proportion of alcohol-related cancers was much higher for some types of cancer. For oral cavity/pharyngeal cancer cases, for example, it ranged from 36% in Utah to 62.5% in Delaware and was 45% or more in 45 states and the District of Columbia. By gender, cancer cases and alcohol-related deaths for most cancer types assessed were higher among men, partly reflecting higher levels of alcohol consumption among men.

In the United States, on average, alcohol consumption accounted for 4.8% of cancer cases and 3.2% of cancer deaths, or about 75,200 cancer cases and 18,950 cancer deaths per year, from 2013 to 2016.

In addition, according to the authors, “health care providers and public health practitioners can educate the community to expand the currently limited awareness of cancer-related risks associated with alcohol consumption.” The American Cancer Society’s guideline on diet and physical activity for cancer prevention states that it is best not to consume alcohol; for those who drink, consumption should be limited to 1 glass per day for women and 2 glasses per day for men.

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Materials provided by American Cancer Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.