Font size  A-  A  A+

Dife Logo

Printversion of:
Status: 08.12.2019 17:36:15

Alcohol causes a significant burden of cancer in 8 countries in Western Europe

Press release 08.04.2011

Research: Alcohol attributable burden of incidence of cancer in eight European countries based on results from prospective cohort study

About one in ten cancers (10%) in men and one in 33 cancers (3%) in women in Western Europe is caused by former and current alcohol consumption, finds a paper published on today.

The study focuses on the following countries: France, Italy, Spain, United
Kingdom, The Netherlands, Greece, Germany and Denmark.

The authors, led by Madlen Schütze at the German Institute of Human
Nutrition in Potsdam Rehbruecke, argue that a substantial proportion (40 to 98%) of the alcohol-attributable cancers occurred in individuals who drank more than the recommended guidelines on upper limits of two drinks a day in men and one drink a day in women.

Theses results are based on risk estimates from the EPIC Study and representative alcohol consumption data compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO). In the EPIC Study 363,988 men and women, mostly aged between 35 and 70 years at the time of recruitment were followed for cancer since the mid 1990s. The participants completed a detailed questionnaire on diet and lifestyle at entry into the study. Alcohol consumption was measured by specific questions on the amount, frequency and the type of beverage that was consumed at present and in the past.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the WHO, there is a causal link between alcohol consumption and cancers of the liver, female breast, colorectum, and upper aerodigestive tract. However, data had not been available on the number of cancer cases linked to total alcohol consumption or the proportion of cases caused by alcohol consumption beyond recommended upper limit.

The study calculated that in 2008, current and former alcohol consumption by men was responsible for about 57,600 cases of cancer of the upper aerodigestive tract, colorectum, and liver in Denmark, Greece, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Great Britain. Over half of these cases (33,000) were caused by drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day. Alcohol consumption by women in the eight countries caused about 21,500 cases of upper aerodigestive tract, liver, colorectum, and breast cancer, of which over 80% (17,400) was due to consumption of more than one drink of beer, wine, or spirits per day.

“Our data shows that many cancer cases could have been avoided if alcohol consumption is limited to two alcoholic drinks per day in men and one alcoholic drink per day in women, which are the recommendations of many health organisations,“ says Madlen Schütze, first author of the study and epidemiologist at German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam-Rehbruecke,“ and even more cancer cases would be prevented if people reduced their alcohol intake to below recommended guidelines or stopped drinking alcohol at all.“ “Our findings underline the importance to further lower alcohol consumption in Europe and Germany,“ adds Manuela Bergmann, who led a working group on health effects of alcohol consumption as part of a European project associated with the EPIC Study.


Dr Manuela Bergmann
Department of Epidemiology
German Institute of Human Nutrition, Nuthetal, Germany
Tel: +49 (0)33 200 88 715 or +49 (0)33 200 88 711


The BMJ Group is one of the world’s most trusted providers of medical information for doctors, researchers, health care workers and patients This email and any attachments are confidential. If you have received this email in error, please delete it and kindly notify us. If the email contains personal views then the BMJ Group accepts no responsibility for these statements. The recipient should check this email and attachments for viruses because the BMJ Group accepts no liability for any damage caused by viruses. Emails sent or received by the BMJ Group may be monitored for size, traffic, distribution and content. BMJ Publishing Group Limited trading as BMJ Group. A private limited company, registered in England and Wales under registration number 03102371. Registered office: BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JR, UK.

The German Institute of Human Nutrition (Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke, DIfE) is member of the Leibniz Association, a scientific organization comprised of 86 non-university research institutes and related service facilities. They have approximately 14,200 employees. Nearly 6,500 of these are researchers (including 2,500 junior scientists). Research in the Leibniz institutes is interdisciplinary and involves application-oriented basic research. The institutes’ work is of national significance and is funded jointly by the German federal government and the federal states (German Länder).

© 2019 DIfE - German Institute of Human Nutrition. All rights reserved. // as of 20.07.2017