People and communities call for effective policy solutions and other interventions to increase awareness of alcohol's cancer risks. We want urgent action to prevent more cancer cases and deaths caused by the products of alcohol companies.
Preventing Cancers Caused by Alcohol
Proven solutions are available for politicians to help raise awareness and prevent cancer cases and deaths due to alcohol
The Three Best Buys
Effective measures and policies to prevent and reduce alcohol-related cancer exist. Three of the most cost-effective policy areas (the “best-buys”) are:
increasing price via taxation,
regulating availability of retail alcohol, and
imposing a ban (or comprehensive restrictions) on alcohol advertising, sponsorship, and promotions.
Alcohol Taxation Could Save Lives in the EU
A modelling study estimated that doubling current alcohol excise taxes in the WHO European region could avoid almost 6% of new cancer cases and cancer deaths caused by alcohol (180,900 cases and 85,100 deaths) in the region. The findings are particularly important for Member States of the European Union where excise duties are in many cases very low.
Alcohol health warning labels should be seen as tools to raise awareness on alcohol related risks, being part of wider alcohol policy approaches.
However, there is an absence of evidence concerning the impact of alcohol warning labels on selection or purchasing in naturalistic settings.
Public Information Campaigns
In addition to the alcohol control policies suggested by the World Health Organization, public information campaigns advising of the cancer risk associated with alcohol use should be initiated to increase knowledge about the alcohol-cancer link. Potential strategies to increase awareness is also fostering patient/physician discussions regarding the alcohol and cancer.
The importance of policy solutions
As a large part of alcohol-attributable cancers are in low and moderate alcohol users, for females, general population measures such as increases in alcohol taxation, restrictions on alcohol availability, and bans on marketing and advertisement are best suited to reduce the alcohol-attributable cancer burden.
Potential of Alcohol Taxation
to Save Lives
Interventions targeting the price of alcohol, namely through a higher tax and alcohol floor price, are estimated to yield the greatest health impact by reducing the number of new related cancer cases by 174,193 and 141,175 over years 2020–2050, respectively. Consequently, demand for disease treatment will fall leading to a reduction in costs and an improvement in the financial sustainability of the health system.
Science suggests warning labelling on alcohol products depicting alcohol’s cancer risk can increase population level cancer awareness and reduce alcohol use at the same time.
Evidence from the only real-world long-term labelling intervention demonstrated that alcohol health warning labels designed to be visible and contain novel and specific information have the potential to be part of an effective labelling strategy.
SBI and Social Marketing
Screening and brief interventions (SBIs), as they are known, for alcohol are an evidence-informed approach to addressing the needs of the many patients presenting in primary care who may benefit from reducing or quitting their alcohol consumption.
A recent Australian study found that, pairing a TV advertisement on alcohol’s cancer risk with information about a method on how to reduce alcohol use resulted in real reductions of alcohol consumption.
Effect of Alcohol Taxation in Lithuania
With the alcohol taxation increase of 2017 in Lithuania, 45 new cases and 24 deaths will be averted over the next 10 years. Further taxation increases of 100% could double the number of new cancer cases averted or saved.
Averting Cancer Cases Through Tax
Alcohol-attributable cancer cases were estimated: in Germany 21,980; in Italy 10,006; in Kazakhstan 1,655; and in Sweden 1,416. In the scenario with the highest increase in alcohol excise duties modelled, between 3% and 7% of all alcohol-attributable cancer cases were averted, which translated for Germany, the country with the lowest taxation rates at baseline, into 673 cancer cases averted in 2018.
Most Effective Health Warnings
Image-and-text health warning labels depicting bowel cancer showed greatest potential for reducing selection and consumption of alcoholic drinks and energy dense snacks, although they were the least acceptable.
When alcohol bottles come with conspicuous labels providing information on the risks of alcohol consumption or alcohol use guidelines, people are better informed about alcohol’s harms and may cut down their alcohol use.