Does Alcohol Use Affect Cancer Risk?

  • Jürgen RehmEmail author
  • Isabelle Soerjomataram
  • Carina Ferreira-Borges
  • Kevin D. Shield
Cancer (MF Leitzmann, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Cancer


Purpose of Review

To provide an overview of the risk relationships between alcohol use and cancer and of the alcohol-attributable cancer burden; to highlight areas of controversy in the alcohol–cancer relationship; to examine the reasons why these risk relationships have not received greater public attention.

Recent Findings

In 2016, alcohol caused an estimated 376,200 cancer deaths, 10.0 million cancer years of life lost (YLLs), 236,600 cancer years lived with disability (YLDs), and 10.3 million cancer disability-adjusted years of life (DALYs), representing 4.2%, 4.2%, 4.6%, and 4.2% of all deaths, YLLs, YLDs, and DALYs lost due to cancer, respectively, proportionally highest in high- and upper–middle–income countries.


Alcohol use is a major contributor to cancer and is linked to the most prevalent types of cancer. No threshold for the effects of alcohol on cancer has yet been identified, and thus, abstinence is best for cancer prevention. Greater public awareness of the relationship between alcohol use and cancer is advisable.


Alcohol Acetaldehyde Cancer Mortality Burden of disease Public perception 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Jürgen Rehm, Isabelle Soerjomataram, Carina Ferreira-Borges, and Kevin D. Shield declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jürgen Rehm
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
    Email author
  • Isabelle Soerjomataram
    • 8
  • Carina Ferreira-Borges
    • 9
  • Kevin D. Shield
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Institute of Medical Science (IMS)University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.WHO Collaboration Centre, Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  6. 6.Campbell Family Mental Health Research InstituteTorontoCanada
  7. 7.Institute for Clinical Psychology and PsychotherapyTU DresdenDresdenGermany
  8. 8.Section of Cancer SurveillanceInternational Agency for Research on CancerLyon CedexFrance
  9. 9.World Health Organization, WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD Office)MoscowRussian Federation

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