Alcohol and Cancer Risks: A Guide for Health Professionals

In October 2014, SHAAP published Alcohol & Cancer Risks: A Guide for Health Professionals. This is currently being updated and will be available here soon.

A growing body of evidence links alcohol consumption with the development of cancer. Alcohol consumption has been causally related to cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum and female breast. A major study of selected European countries, including the UK, found 10% of all cancer cases in men and 3% of all cancer cases in women are attributable to current and former alcohol consumption. *

The incidence of cancer cases attributable to alcohol consumption in Scotland underlines the necessity of action to reduce alcohol consumption, both at the individual and population level. 

  • Amongst health professionals there needs to be an increased understanding of the relative risks of consuming alcohol. Improving the rates of awareness within health professional groups will need information to be tailored to specific professional needs. 
  • Low rates of awareness in public audiences may need information to be tailored to the specific needs of target groups. 
  • Understanding and communicating “risk” is as much a challenge for professionals as the general public.

SHAAP Alcohol and Cancer Risks Workshop, 2011

In December 2011, SHAAP convened a workshop to examine the current evidence linking alcohol consumption and cancer and the incidence of alcohol-attributable cancers in Scotland. Participants from clinical, epidemiological and public health backgrounds considered strategies to raise professional and public awareness of the association between alcohol consumption and increased risk of cancer, as well as the most effective interventions to reduce risk.


* See M Schutze et al 'Alcohol attributable burden of incidence of cancer in eight European countries based on results from prospective cohort study', BMJ 2011;342:d1584.