The burden of cancer attributable to alcohol drinking

Int J Cancer. 2006 Aug 15;119(4):884-7. doi: 10.1002/ijc.21903.


We estimated the number of cancer cases and deaths attributable to alcohol drinking in 2002 by sex and WHO subregion, based on relative risks of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, larynx and female breast obtained from recent meta- and pooled analyses and data on prevalence of drinkers obtained from the WHO Global Burden of Disease project. A total of 389,100 cases of cancer are attributable to alcohol drinking worldwide, representing 3.6% of all cancers (5.2% in men, 1.7% in women). The corresponding figure for mortality is 232,900 deaths (3.5% of all cancer deaths). This proportion is particularly high among men in Central and Eastern Europe. Among women, breast cancer comprises 60% of alcohol-attributable cancers. Although our estimates are based on simplified assumptions, the burden of alcohol-associated cancer appears to be substantial and needs to be considered when making public health recommendations on alcohol drinking.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • World Health Organization