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WHO: 5,000 fewer lives a year lost to cancer if Europe ups alcohol tax

In an effort to curb alcohol consumption, the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggested this week that European countries consider doubling their ‘sin tax’ on alcohol, to help prevent up to 5,000 cancer deaths every year, reports AFP in the Daily Sabah. This followed a study by European researchers into potentially avoidable cancers, published in The Lancet.

The researchers are from Technische Universität Dresden; the Public Health Agency of Catalonia in Barcelona; the WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases in Moscow; and the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon.

Increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages is “one of the best measures” to prevent cancer with a “potentially high impact”, said WHO’s European office, adding that countries like Russia and the United Kingdom would benefit most.

Alcohol consumption is causally linked to oral cavity, pharynx, oesophagus, colorectal, liver, larynx and female breast cancer, the WHO said, according to the AFP story published on 20 September 2021.

Its model projections showed “an estimated 10,700 new cancer cases and 4,850 alcohol-related cancer deaths could be avoided annually in the WHO European Region by doubling current excise duties on alcoholic beverages”.

This represents about 6% of new cases and deaths from alcohol-related cancers in the WHO's European region, which comprises 53 countries and territories and includes Russia and several Central Asian nations.

The WHO's regional office said that 180,000 new cancer cases and 85,000 deaths every year “were estimated to be caused by alcohol”.

For the WHO, current levels of alcohol taxation remain ‘low’ in many parts of Europe, particularly in the 27-nation European Union.

Russia, the UK and Germany would save the most lives by adopting the tax measure, with 725, 680 and 525 deaths averted respectively, according to the model published in The Lancet.

It said a doubling of taxes would in particular help in preventing deaths from breast cancer (1,000 deaths per year) and colorectal cancer (1,700).

The WHO said 4.8 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in Europe in 2020.

 

Study details

Modelling the impact of increased alcohol taxation on alcohol-attributable cancers in the WHO European Region

Carolin Kilian, Pol Rovira, Maria Neufeld, Carina Ferreira-Borges, Harriet Rumgay, Isabelle Soerjomataram and Jürgen Rehm.

Author affiliations: Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at Technische Universität Dresden; Programme on Substance Abuse at the Public Health Agency of Catalonia in Barcelona; WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases in Moscow; and the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon.

Published in The Lancet on 14 September 2021.

 

Abstract

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 10,700 cases and 4,850 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.

 

AFP story in Daily Sabah – 5,000 fewer a year lost to cancer if Europe ups alcohol tax: WHO (Open access)

 

The Lancet: Regional Health, Europe, article – Modelling the impact of increased alcohol taxation on alcohol-attributable cancers in the WHO European Region (Open access)

 

See also from the MedicalBrief archive

 

Alcohol consumption linked to 4% of global cancer cases – WHO study

 

Minimum price for alcohol could save thousands of SA lives – Research

 

Minimum unit alcohol price in Scotland and Wales reaps benefits

 

Minimum unit price on alcohol could substantially reduce SA heavy drinking

 

 

 

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