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Background: Reducing the alcohol-attributable cancer burden in the WHO European Region is a public health priority. This study aims to estimate the number of potentially avoidable cancers in countries of the WHO European Region in 2019 for three scenarios in which current excise duties on alcoholic beverages were increased by 20%, 50%, or 100%.

Methods: Mean prices and excise duties for beer, wine, and spirits in the Member States of the WHO European Region in 2020 were used as the baseline scenario. We assumed that increases in excise duties (20%, 50%, and 100%) were fully incorporated into the consumer price. Beverage-specific price elasticities of demand, with lower elasticities for heavy drinkers, were obtained from a meta-analysis. Model estimates were applied to alcohol exposure data for 2009 and cancer incidence and mortality rates for 2019, assuming a 10-year lag time between alcohol intake and cancer development and mortality.

Findings: Of 180,887 (95% Confidence interval [CI]: 160,595-201,705) new alcohol-attributable cancer cases and 85,130 (95% CI: 74,920-95,523) deaths in the WHO European Region in 2019, 5•9% (95% CI: 5•6-6•4) and 5•7% (95% CI: 5•4-6•1), respectively, could have been avoided by increasing excise duties by 100%. According to our model, alcohol-attributable female breast cancer and colorectal cancer contributed most to the avoidable cases and deaths.

Interpretation: Doubling current alcohol excise duties could avoid just under 6% (or 180,900 cases and 85,100 deaths) of new alcohol-attributable cancers within the WHO European Region, particularly in Member States of the European Union where excise duties are in many cases very low.

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Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a condition which creates irregular heartbeat/rhythm. Previous research has found that chronic alcohol use could predict the condition. 

A new study has found that acute alcohol use is also linked to triggering of AF episodes.  Which means by reducing/stopping alcohol use patients could improve heart health by decreasing the number of AF episodes.

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Mortality from liver disease has increased over the last decade in the US. Alcohol is a known cause, but its use also contributes to the development or progression of other types of liver disease, complicating efforts to quantify the overall impact of alcohol use on liver disease. Researchers developed causal and statistical models based on a narrative review of the literature to assess the relationships between alcohol use and the development or progression of various liver diseases in the US in 2017, including through alcohol’s interactions with other relevant behavior-related risk factors.

  • Alcohol use caused 54,500 incident cases of liver cirrhosis, of which approximately 35% were from diseases other than alcohol-associated cirrhosis.
  • Through interaction with behavioral risk factors, alcohol use accounted for the progression to cirrhosis of 10,400 cases of obesity-related liver disease and 7700 cases of hepatitis C virus.
  • Alcohol use caused 47,300 total deaths from liver disease, including 6600 from liver cancer.

Comments: Accounting for alcohol’s role in liver diseases that are exacerbated by alcohol consumption or caused by alcohol-associated risk factors yields substantially higher estimates of morbidity and mortality than those based on diseases for which alcohol is the original or principal cause. This has important implications for public health surveillance, and serves as a reminder to clinicians about the role of alcohol in a wide range of liver diseases.

Timothy S. Naimi, MD, MPH

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The NHMRC Drinking Guidelines 2021: It is important to note these are just ‘guidelines’, not recommendations.

However, the growing evidence around both short- and long-term harms of alcohol consumption warrant a more robust set of warnings for consumers to better inform and create appropriate awareness of the real and growing harms.

You will note that alcohol should not be consumed by

But also, it is important to emphasise that you should also not consume alcohol if,

Further recommended resources,

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Alcohol fuels the coronavirus pandemic in different ways, the alcohol industry exploits the current public health crisis and many governments around the world have largely failed to protect their people by using evidence-based alcohol policy solutions as part of the response to COVID-19 – according to a brand new research report.

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