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Alcohol and cancer: the urgent need for a new message

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New knowledge on old bottles: alcohol labelling and an unpalatable message

Alcohol is one of the most widely used drugs in Australia.1 In 1988, the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer declared it a Group 1 carcinogen — a fact of which few Australians are aware.2 In Australia annually, over 2000 cancer diagnoses and around 1400 cancer deaths are attributable to long-term alcohol use.2 Recent evidence indicates that any alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing cancer, including for the common cancers such as those of the bowel and breast, while smoking and alcohol together have synergistic effects that exceed the risk from either individually.2

This evidence has changed the known risk of developing cancer for a significant number of Australians, particularly those drinking alcohol at light-to-moderate levels, as risk increases cumulatively with consumption over time.2 Most of the Australian population of light-to-moderate drinkers who adhere to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines of no more…