Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to the consumption of alcohol

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2015 Oct;39(5):408-13. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12456.


Objective: To estimate the proportion and numbers of cancers occurring in Australia in 2010 that are attributable to alcohol consumption.

Methods: We estimated the population attributable fraction (PAF) of cancers causally associated with alcohol consumption using standard formulae incorporating prevalence of alcohol consumption and relative risks associated with consumption and cancer. We also estimated the proportion change in cancer incidence (potential impact fraction [PIF]) that might have occurred under the hypothetical scenario that an intervention reduced alcohol consumption, so that no-one drank >2 drinks/day.

Results: An estimated 3,208 cancers (2.8% of all cancers) occurring in Australian adults in 2010 could be attributed to alcohol consumption. The greatest numbers were for cancers of the colon (868) and female breast cancer (830). The highest PAFs were for squamous cell carcinomas of the oral cavity/pharynx (31%) and oesophagus (25%). The incidence of alcohol-associated cancer types could have been reduced by 1,442 cases (4.3%)--from 33,537 to 32,083--if no Australian adult consumed >2 drinks/day.

Conclusions: More than 3,000 cancers were attributable to alcohol consumption and thus were potentially preventable.

Implications: Strategies that limit alcohol consumption to guideline levels could prevent a large number of cancers in Australian adults.

Keywords: alcohol; cancer; population attributable fraction; potential impact fraction; risk factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / mortality*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors