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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Cancer Prevention Groups Don’t Call Alcohol a Disease Risk

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies alcohol as a group-1 carcinogen. A recent statement by the American Society of Clinical Oncology concluded that even light drinking increases cancer risk, especially for breast and esophageal cancer.

Now, a new study by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers has found that the largest American and Canadian cancer prevention organizations failed to state that, even when consumed in low doses, alcohol is a risk factor for cancer. The study was published in Addiction.

The study assessed health statements on the use of alcohol and the risk of cancer from the largest cancer organizations in a number of high-income countries. These organizations were the Cancer Council Australia (CCA), the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), the Irish Cancer Society (ICS), Cancer Society New Zealand (CSNZ), Cancer Research UK (CRUK), and the American Cancer Society (ACS).

The researchers found that while all six organizations acknowledged that alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk for cancer of the oral cavity, breast, pharynx, larynx, colon, rectum, liver, and esophagus, neither the American Cancer Society nor the Canadian Cancer identified alcohol as a group-1 carcinogen with no safe threshold of consumption. Moreover, while supporting higher taxes on tobacco, four of the organizations, including the American Cancer Society, did not publish statements advocating for increased alcohol taxes.

“These results suggest that cancer organizations in general need to be a better job of informing the public that alcohol is a recognized carcinogen and that the risk of cancer is not restricted to people who drink excessively,” says co-author Dr. Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH. “The alcohol companies are making a big point of trying to spread the message that moderate drinking is healthy, but they are not telling the truth: Moderate drinking increases your cancer risk. Since alcohol companies are not sending this message, it is incumbent upon cancer organizations to do so.”

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