New Delhi: Alcohol consumption is on the rise in India, and so is the number of cancer patients. A study published in The Lancet Oncology journal has named alcohol to be the reason behind cancer growth in 62,100 people.
Researchers said that alcohol has been causing DNA damage by increased production of harmful chemicals and disturbing hormone production. Alcohol can also worsen the effects of cancer-causing substances like tobacco.
About 5% of newly diagnosed cancer cases in the country in 2020 have been associated with the rise of alcohol consumption. The findings are at par with the global statistics, which associate 4% of new cancer cases reported every year to alcohol. This amounts to over 740,000 new cases.
In most cases, patients are diagnosed with cancers of the oesophagus, liver, and breast. The report shows a rise of 6.3 million cases of mouth, pharynx, voice box (larynx), oesophageal, colon, rectum, liver, and breast cancer in 2020 from previous years.
The authors have classified intake of two drinks a day as moderate drinking, two to six drinks a day as risky drinking, and over six drinks a day as heavy drinking.
The report says that risky drinking caused 39% of the cases globally, which amounts to 291,800 cancer patients. And heavy drinking caused 47% of cases, amounting to 346,400 cancer patients. Moderate drinking is also problematic as it was found responsible for 14% of cases, which is 101,100 cancer patients.
He added that the pandemic seems to have contributed to the rise in alcohol consumption. The global statistics say that among the 740K cancer patients, 77% of them (568,700 cases) are men and women account for 23% (172,600).
Harriet Rumgay of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), France said that alcohol use is on the rise in Asian and sub-Saharan African countries. The findings say that even relatively low levels of alcohol consumption are increasing the rates of cancer.
Eastern Asia, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe had the highest number of cancer cases associated with alcohol and accounted for 6% of global cases. Patients in Northern Africa and Western Asia, both amounted to less than 1% of the cases.
Mongolia was estimated to be the highest (10%) cancer cases associated with alcohol consumption. The lowest is Kuwait, with an estimate of 0%. China had an estimated 6% (282,300), while France had 5% with 20,000 cases. Germany, UK, and Brazil estimated at 4% with 21,500, 16,800, and 20,500 cases. The US estimated at 3% with 52,700 cases.
The authors of the study have called for increased government interventions in worst-affected regions starting with greater public awareness of the link between alcohol and cancers. They also suggested strategies like reduced alcohol availability, labelling alcohol products with a health warning, and marketing bans.