LONDON — European citizens consume the most alcohol globally, increasing their chances of developing cancer, according to a new report by United European Gastronenterology (UEG).
The report finds that people in the EU are drinking an average of two alcoholic drinks per day, increasing their chances of developing colorectal cancer and other digestive cancers by 21%.
Alcohol consumption in Europe is the highest in the world, with over 20% of Europeans over 15 drinking heavily at least once a week.
But, says the UEG, the vast majority of Europeans are unaware of the link between alcohol and cancer. In response to the findings, it is calling for better education and more responsible pricing.
“One of the main challenges in addressing high drinking levels is how deeply embedded alcohol consumption is within the European society, both socially and culturally,” said Professor Markus Peck, a digestive health expert.
“Political action like minimum pricing and reducing access to alcohol needs to be taken now to prevent many future casualties. Research then has to follow to help generate data and allow us to fine-tune future political activity,” he said.
Although the UEG classes between one and four drinks per day as ‘moderate’ drinking, it is keen to stress the link between this level of consumption and a heightened risk of pancreatic, liver and gastric cancers.
In 2014 the World Health Organisation found that nearly one in every 20 deaths globally were caused by alcohol consumption, and predicted a rise in cancers from 14 million to almost 22 million cases between 2012 and 2030. Europe, the UEG found, has the highest proportion of alcohol related illnesses and deaths.
Lithuania has the highest drinking average, at 3.2 drinks per day, while no EU country has ‘light’ consumption, or fewer than one per day. The Lithuanian government recently clamped down on drinking regulations, banning alcohol advertising, raising the drinking age to 20 from 18 and prohibiting alcohol sales between 8pm and 10am.
In January 2016 the UK government altered its alcohol guidelines, recommending that both men and women drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, down from previous recommendations of no more than 21 units for men.
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