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Alcohol warning labels

Evidence to show alcohol can contribute to cancer:

Key Messages From The Cancer Council Australia

Cancer Council Recommendations

  • The Cancer Council recommends that, to reduce the risk of cancer, alcohol consumption should be limited or avoided.
  • There is no evidence from studies in human populations that any alcoholic beverage consumption provides any protection against cancer.
  • There is convincing evidence that alcohol is an important risk factor for some cancers, particularly mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver and breast.
  • Even very low levels of alcohol can increase the risk of colorectal and breast cancer, and if a person smokes, the risk of cancer is significantly greater.

Key Message From The World Cancer Research Fund

Key Messages From The American Cancer Society

(source: www.cancer.org)

  • Drinking alcohol can cause cancer. Research shows that men who have 2 alcoholic drinks a day and woman who have 1 alcoholic drink a day have an increased risk of developing certain cancers. The more alcohol a person consumes, the higher his or her risk of developing some kinds of cancer.
  • The way alcohol causes cancer is not completely understood. It could be that alcohol itself causes cancer by increasing hormone levels or it may be carcinogenic because of the way it is broken down in the body (metabolised) which can make cells more vulnerable to other cancer-causing compounds like tobacco.
  • Many research studies have established the relationship between alcohol use and cancer. Risks due to alcohol vary depending on the kind of cancer. The strongest associations between alcohol use and cancer are with mouth, esophageal, laryngeal, pharyngeal, breast and liver cancers. Oral cancers are six times more common in alcohol users than in non alcohol users.
  • Many studies have found an association between alcohol use and the risk of breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed and is highest among heavy alcohol users.

Key Messages From The Cancer Council Of NSW

(Source: http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/editorial.asp?pageid=1775 )

  • Alcohol is a known risk factor for cancer. As far back as 1981, it was estimated that alcohol accounted for 3% of cancers. Alcohol has been recognised as a Group 1 carcinogen since 1988 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the highest IARC classification in humans, for cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and liver.
  • The review by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research (WCRF) in 1997 concluded that there was convincing evidence (the highest level of evidence in this report) that alcohol increases the risk of mouth, pharyngeal, laryngeal and oesophageal cancers. This review also found convincing evidence that alcohol increases the risk of primary liver cancer, probably by way of alcoholic liver cirrhosis. The WCRF Report found probable evidence that alcohol increases the risk of colorectal cancer and breast cancer, even at very low levels of consumption. 
  • There is strong epidemiological evidence that alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, and oesophagus. The risks are essentially due to total alcohol intake (rather than a specific type of beverage), and tend to increase with the amount of alcohol drunk.
  • For cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx and oesophagus, there is no safety threshold below which an effect is not evident, but it is still unclear whether this is the case for all cancers.

Key Messages From Cancer Research UK

(source: http://info.cancerresearchuk.org)

  • Alcohol is one of the most well established causes of cancer.
  • International health organisations like the World Health Organisation agree that alcohol can cause a range of cancers. This is based on the consistent results of many different studies all around the world. The Oxford Textbook of Medicine estimates that 6% of cancer deaths in the UK are caused by alcohol. And all of these deaths could be avoided. 
  • A large number of studies have identified a clear link between drinking alcohol and increased risks of cancers of the mouth and foodpipe. The International Agency for Cancer Research says that heavy drinking increases risks of these cancers by 5 to 10 times. And one study found that 90% of all patients with these cancers drank more than twice the average amount of alcohol. Even small amounts of alcohol – as little as one unit a day – can increase the risk of mouth cancer.
  • Even small amounts of alcohol can increase your risk of breast cancer. A group of scientists who analysed almost 100 previous studies found that every daily alcoholic drink increases a woman’s breast cancer risk by 10%. A Cancer Research UK-funded study estimated that alcohol causes about 2,000 breast cancer cases every year in the UK alone. And death rates from breast cancer are 30% higher in women drinking just one daily drink.

Countries with Health Warning labels on alcohol:


“Government warning: according to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects”


“Drink with moderation” and “Prohibited for people under 18 years old”


“Avoid the excessive consumption of alcohol”


“This product is harmful to the health of children and pregnant women” and “The excess of alcohol is harmful to your health”


“Alcohol abuse is harmful to your health” and “Drinking alcohol is harmful to your health”


“The excessive consumption of alcohol restricts your capacity to drive and operate machinery, may cause damage to your health and adversely affects your family”


All advertising for alcohol carries the message “Alcohol abuse is dangerous for health”


“The excessive consumption of this product is harmful to the health of the consumer” and “The consumption of this product causes serious harm to your health”.


“Alcohol is injurious to your health”


“Excessive consumption of this product is hazardous to health” and “Abusing alcohol consumption of this product is harmful to health”


“Warning, excessive consumption of alcohol may cause liver cirrhosis or liver cancer and is especially detrimental to the mental and physical health of minors”


There are numerous warnings on all Swedish alcohol advertising (not the product itself) including “Alcohol can cause stroke and cancer”, “Alcohol is dependence producing”, “Alcohol can cause nerve and brain damage”, “To begin drinking at an early age increases the risk of having alcohol problems” and “Alcohol can injure your health”.


“Excessive drinking endangers health” and “Excessive consumption of alcohol is harmful to health”


“Warning, drinking liquor reduces driving ability”


“The abuse of alcoholic beverages can damage your health”


“Alcohol may be hazardous to health if consumed to excess”

Proposed labels on alcohol:

The Salvation Army would like to see the following labels placed immediately onto all alcohol products:

Alcohol is a drug – you can become dependent on it


Alcohol can cause brain damage


Alcohol can increase the risk of getting cancer including breast cancer and liver cancer


Alcohol can injure and damage your health


Drinking alcohol regularly during pregnancy may harm 
your unborn baby