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“Alcohol consumption linked with increased risk of cancers,” says ASCO
Friday, 10 November, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Alexandria
Alcohol use—whether light, moderate, or heavy—is linked with increasing the risk of several leading cancers, including those of the breast, colon, esophagus and head and neck. This was stated by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), who gathered evidence to support it.

In a recent statement identifying alcohol as a definite risk factor for cancer, ASCO cited between five and six per cent of new cancers and cancer deaths globally as directly attributable to alcohol.

“This was particularly concerning, since 70 per cent of Americans did not recognise drinking alcohol as a risk factor for cancer,” according to the National Cancer Opinion Survey, conducted by ASCO earlier this year.

“People typically don’t associate drinking beer, wine and hard liquor with increasing their risk of developing cancer in their lifetimes,” said Bruce Johnson, president, ASCO.

“However, the link between increased alcohol consumption and cancer has been firmly established and gives the medical community guidance on how to help their patients reduce their risk of cancer,” he added.

ASCO’s National Cancer Opinion Survey, whose results were released recently, found that only 38 per cent of Americans limited their alcohol intake as a way to reduce their risk of cancer.

The national study on Americans’ attitudes about cancer was scientifically conducted online by Harris Poll in July 2017 among 4,016 adults in the United States aged 18 and older. It is believed to accurately represent the broader population of the country.

In addition to raising awareness of the established link between alcohol and cancer, and thereby the opportunity to reduce cancer risk by limiting how much alcohol is consumed, the statement, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, also offered some evidence-based policy recommendations to reduce excessive alcohol consumption.

These were as follows:
Provide alcohol screening and brief interventions in clinical settings
Regulate alcohol outlet density
Increase alcohol taxes and prices
Maintain limits on days and hours of sale
Enhance enforcement of laws prohibiting sales to minors
Restrict youth exposure to advertising of alcoholic beverages
Resist further privatisation of retail alcohol sales in communities with current government control
Include alcohol control strategies in comprehensive cancer control plans
Support efforts to eliminate the use of pinkwashing to market alcoholic beverages (i e, discouraging alcoholic beverage companies from exploiting the colour pink or pink ribbons to show a commitment to finding a cure for breast cancer given the evidence that alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer)

“ASCO joins a growing number of cancer care and public health organisations in recognising that even moderate alcohol use can cause cancer,” said Noelle K LoConte, associate professor of medicine, University of Wisconsin, and lead author of the statement.

Therefore, limiting alcohol intake is a means to prevent cancer. She said, “The good news is that, just like people wear sunscreen to limit their risk of skin cancer, limiting alcohol intake is one more thing people can do to reduce their overall risk of developing cancer.”

Not only does excessive alcohol consumption cause cancer, but it also can delay or negatively impact cancer treatment.

Oncologists are uniquely positioned to identify strategies to help their patients reduce their alcohol use; address racial, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation disparities that may place these populations at increased cancer risk, and serve as community advisors and leaders to raise the awareness of alcohol as a cancer risk behaviour.

More information about alcohol as a risk factor for cancer can be found on the Alcohol page of the Prevention and Healthy Living section of ASCO’s patient information website, Cancer.Net.

Additionally, one can listen to a Cancer.Net podcast about this statement by LoConte, in which she discusses the relationship between alcohol use and cancer and explains why ASCO released a statement on this topic.
 
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