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Light alcohol consumption also increases the risk of breast cancer

6 February 2018

STAP calls on health care professionals to inform women about the influence of alcohol use on the development of breast cancer.

The Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP has started an information campaign about alcohol use and breast cancer. This is in line with similar campaigns in England and Denmark. For this campaign a special website has been developed: www.alcoholenborstkanker.nl. The new campaign is supported by scientists and doctors.

Alcohol and breast cancer
14,750 women are affected annually by breast cancer in the Netherlands (1,2,3). An estimated 1,000 to 3,000 of these women are diagnosed with breast cancer due to alcohol use. Different causes play a role in the development of breast cancer, such as hereditary predisposition and the age at which menstruation and menopause occur. These causes cannot be influenced. But there are also causes that can be influenced, such as the use of alcohol. The detailed Dutch-language website www.alcohololenborstkanker.nl explains, for example, why alcohol use can lead to breast cancer and where women who want to reduce or stop their alcohol consumption can find support.

Alcohol is carcinogenic
The World Health Organization already established officially in 2007 that alcohol use increases the risk of breast cancer (4,5). Yet this information is not yet known by many people. Previous research by STAP shows that only 1 in 10 Dutch people are aware of this (6). This is also the case in other countries, such as in England (7). There appears to be no safe lower limit to the consumption of alcohol (8). This means that drinking 1 glass of alcohol (10 grams of alcohol) per day increases the risk of developing breast cancer. In total, at least 7 forms of cancer are related to alcohol use: mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon / rectal cancer, liver and breast cancer (8). Furthermore, alcohol may also cause cancer of the stomach, pancreas, lungs, skin and prostate.

The first Dutch initiative
The new website www.alcohololenborstkanker.nl is the first Dutch initiative with the aim to increase knowledge about alcohol use and breast cancer. STAP wants to ensure that GPs and health professionals will actively spread this knowledge from now on.
Wim van Dalen, director of STAP: "Consumers have the right to know what the most important risks are of the use of alcoholic beverages. Information on the label about alcohol and traffic, alcohol and pregnancy and alcohol and cancer can help."

Sources:
1. TNO (2014). De bijdrage van leefstijlfactoren aan de incidentie van en de sterfte aan kanker in Nederland.
2. Website Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds. World Cancer Research Fund/ American Institute for Cancer Research. Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention. Food, Nutrition and Physical Activity: a Global Perspective. Washington DC: AICR, 2009.
3. Integraal Kankercentrum Nederland (IKNL). Cijfers over Kanker. Incidentie invasieve borstkanker. 4. Baan, R. et al., (2007). Carcinogenicity of Alcoholic Beverages. The Lancet Oncology, 8, 292-293.
5. World Health Organization. International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Volume 96. Alcohol Consumption and Ethyl Carbamate. 2010.
6. STAP (2012). Ziek van alcohol; Een analyse van de kennis van de Nederlandse bevolking over de gevolgen van alcoholgebruik voor onze gezondheid.
7. Cancer Research UK (2016). An investigation of public knowledge of the link between alcohol and cancer.
8. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective. Washington DC: AICR, 2007.

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Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP
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The Netherlands
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