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WHO: Alcohol a major cause behind cancer surge

The World Health Organisation warns of a “tidal wave” of cancer cases occurring over the next 20 years following the release of its third World Cancer Report 2014.

The authors of the 800-page volume found that alcohol-attributable cancers were responsible for a total of 337,400 deaths worldwide in 2010, mostly among men. Of these, the majority were liver cancer deaths, but the WHO warns that drinking alcohol is also a risk factor for cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, bowel, stomach, pancreas, breast and others.

The incidence of cancer globally has increased from 12.7m new cases in 2008 to 14.1m in 2012, when there were 8.2m deaths. By 2032, it is expected to hit almost 25m a year – a 70% increase.

In the report’s introduction, WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan writes that many cancers are associated with the lifestyles of more affluent countries "with increasing use of tobacco, consumption of alcohol and highly processed foods and lack of physical activity" acting as key risk factors. Co-author to the report Dr Bernard Stewart from the University of New South Wales said that, in order to combat the increased risks of alcohol consumption on cancer incidence rates, "labelling, availability and the price of alcohol should all be on the agenda".

World Cancer Report 2014 can be accessed from the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s website, the cancer research arm of the WHO.