Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 109, Issue 1, pp 70–78 | Cite as

Preventing alcohol-related cancer: what if everyone drank within the guidelines?

  • Stephanie W. Young
  • Elisa Candido
  • Julie Klein-Geltink
  • Norman Giesbrecht
Quantitative Research



The purpose of this study was to estimate the proportion and number of cancer cases diagnosed in Ontario in 2012 that are attributable to alcohol consumption and to compare the impact of drinking within two sets of guidelines on alcohol-attributable cancer incidence.


We estimated the proportion of cancers in Ontario attributable to alcohol consumption by calculating population-attributable fractions (PAFs) for six cancer types using drinking prevalence from the 2000/2001 Canadian Community Health Survey and relative risks from a meta-analysis. Each PAF was multiplied by the number of incident cancers in 2012, allowing for a 12-year latency period, to calculate the number of alcohol-attributable cases. We also estimated the number of alcohol-attributable cases under two scenarios: (1) assuming consumption had not exceeded the levels recommended by the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (LRADG) and (2) assuming consumption had not exceeded the recommended levels by the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) guidelines.


One thousand two hundred ninety-five (95% confidence interval 1093–1499) new cases of cancer diagnosed in Ontario during 2012 are estimated to be attributed to alcohol consumption, representing approximately 1.7% (1.4–1.9%) of all new cancer cases. If no Ontario adults had exceeded the LRADG, an estimated 321 fewer cancer cases could have been diagnosed in 2012, whereas an estimated 482 fewer cancer cases could have been diagnosed if no Ontario adults had exceeded the stricter WCRF/AICR guidelines.


Strategies to limit alcohol consumption to the levels recommended by drinking guidelines could potentially reduce the cancer burden in Ontario.


Neoplasms Alcoholic beverages Alcohol drinking 



Estimer la proportion et le nombre de cas de cancer diagnostiqués en Ontario en 2012 qui étaient attribuables à la consommation d’alcool et comparer les effets de cette consommation selon deux ensembles de directives sur l’incidence des cancers attribuables à la consommation d’alcool.


Nous avons estimé la proportion des cancers attribuables à consommation d’alcool en Ontario en calculant les fractions attribuables dans la population (FAP) pour six types de cancer à l’aide de la prévalence de la consommation selon l’Enquête sur la santé dans les collectivités canadiennes de 2000–2001 et les risques relatifs d’une méta-analyse. Chaque FAP a été multipliée par le nombre de nouveaux cas de cancer en 2012, en tenant compte d’une période de latence de 12 ans, pour calculer le nombre de cas attribuables à la consommation d’alcool. Nous avons aussi estimé le nombre de cas attribuables à la consommation d’alcool selon deux scénarios : 1) en supposant une consommation ne dépassant pas les niveaux recommandés dans les Directives de consommation d’alcool à faible risque (DCAFR); et 2) en supposant une consommation ne dépassant pas les niveaux recommandés dans les directives conjointes du World Cancer Research Fund et de l’American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR).


Il est estimé que 1295 (intervalle de confiance de 95%: 1093–1499) nouveaux cas de cancer diagnostiqués en Ontario en 2012 étaient attribuables à la consommation d’alcool, soit environ 1,7% (1,4%–1,9%) des nouveaux cas de cancer. Si aucun adulte ontarien n’avait dépassé les DCAFR, il est. estimé que 321 cas de cancer en moins auraient été diagnostiqués en 2012, tandis que 482 cas de cancer en moins auraient été diagnostiqués si aucun adulte ontarien n’avait dépassé les directives plus strictes du WCRF et de l’AICR.


Des stratégies visant à limiter la consommation d’alcool aux niveaux recommandés dans les directives de consommation pourraient potentiellement réduire le fardeau du cancer en Ontario.


Tumeurs Boissons alcoolisées Consommation d’alcool 



The authors thank Sue Greco for assistance in using @RISK.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie W. Young
    • 1
  • Elisa Candido
    • 1
  • Julie Klein-Geltink
    • 1
  • Norman Giesbrecht
    • 2
  1. 1.Prevention and Cancer ControlCancer Care OntarioTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Institute for Mental Health Policy ResearchCentre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada

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