A comprehensive analysis of data culminating from 10 years of global research has identified alcohol as the cause of 5.8 per cent of deaths from cancer in 2012 alone.
In an opinion piece published in the journal Addiction, Jenni O'Connor of the University of Otago in New Zealand, wrote that alcohol can be linked to cancer of the mouth and throat, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, bowel and breast.
“There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites, and probably others,” she said.
“Confirmation of specific biological mechanisms by which alcohol increases the incidence of each type of cancer is not required to infer that alcohol is a cause.”
Australians are advised to limit their alcohol consumption, and those who do drink are told to have no more than two standard units a day.
Connor also said that based on the evidence, the supposed health benefits of drinking — such as a glass of red wine a day being good for the heart — were “irrelevant in comparison to the increase in risk of a range of cancers.”
The findings came after analysis of data gathered over the past decade by the World Cancer Research Fund, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organisation’s cancer body, and other bodies.
According to Cancer Council Australia, 2.8% of all cancers nationwide were attributed to alcohol consumption. In light of this, Australians are advised to limit their alcohol consumption, and those who do drink are told to have no more than two standard units a day.
In England, the National Health Service (NHS) warned women who had more than two standard drinks a day increase their risk of breast cancer by 16%. Those who had more than five standard drinks daily increased their risk by 40%.
Although scientists are still investigating exactly how alcohol causes cancer, they theorise that it causes damage to DNA.
"There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites, and probably others."
Susannah Brown from the World Cancer Research Fund said of the new findings, ”Many people believe that alcohol consumption is only linked to liver cancer, but this review confirms the findings of our Continuous Update Project that alcohol is strongly linked to an increased risk of a number of different cancers, including two of the most common - bowel and breast cancer.”
"For cancer prevention, we have long recommended that people should not drink alcohol at all, but we understand that this can be easier said than done."
Editor's note: This article originally incorrectly referred to O'Connor's paper as a study. This has been updated.