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Sweden - alcohol and cancer

Cancerfonden

Swedish Cancer Society

The Swedish Cancer Society works towards the vision of defeating cancer through financing the best cancer research in Sweden.

alcohol and cancer

Reduce the risk of cancer by avoiding alcohol

A little red wine every day is useful. Or? Every year, alcohol causes several thousand cancer cases in Sweden. But many do not know the connection.

The substance formed when alcohol is broken down in the body is called acetaldehyde and is directly toxic and carcinogenic. Alcohol also contains large amounts of calories, which means that high consumption easily leads to obesity, which increases the risk of obesity-related cancer.

There is thus no "safe" alcohol consumption with regard to cancer risk. The cancer risk to increase it doesn´t have to be alcohol abuse or even risky drinking. The large increase in risk for several cancers indeed arises with relatively high consumption. But at least when it comes to breast cancer, it already increases at one glass per day and grows gradually with increased intake.

Source: Cancerfonden (Alkohol och cancer)

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New Swedish study: 3 out of 10 cancer cases in Sweden can be prevented

December 7, 2020

More than 15,000 people are affected by cancer each year as a result of susceptible risk factors, according to a new report commissioned by the Cancerfonden. It means that 3 out of 10 cancer cases in Sweden can be prevented and that our lifestyle has a significant role in the risk of developing cancer. 

A study conducted by The Swedish Institute for Health Economics (IHE) on behalf of the Cancer Foundation analyzes how susceptible risk factors contribute to the number of people who fall ill with cancer. The study results are summarized in the report “Cancer in Sweden - how much depends on influential risk factors?

The analyzed risk factors are the lifestyle habits of tobacco smoking, sunbathing, overweight/obesity, unhealthy eating habits, alcohol consumption and physical inactivity, and certain infections that can be affected or even completely prevented. 

- Many people know that smoking and sunbathing can cause cancer, but the connections between knowledge are weaker when it comes to other risk factors, such as obesity and alcohol consumption. It is the first time someone has made an overall calculation for the Swedish population regarding our living habits and how they affect cancer incidence in Sweden. That is why this report is so important, says Ulrika Årehed Kågström, Secretary-General of the Cancer Foundation. 

Unhealthy eating habits, obesity and alcohol are, after smoking and sunbathing, the most significant influencing risk factors for cancer. Eight per cent of all cancers in Sweden are linked to how much we weigh and how we eat, drink and move. This corresponds to over 4,500 cancer diagnoses annually. This figure is expected to increase gradually if we do not reverse the negative trend around these habits. 

- It is important to remember that most cancer cases are due to things we can not influence. But this report shows that we can reduce a large number of cancer cases at the population level through preventive measures. It is always ourselves who ultimately decide on our living habits, but politicians have a great responsibility to create the conditions for everyone to live healthily. That is why we need an active public health policy, says Ulrika Årehed Kågström. 

Source: Cancerfonden

Video lecture: Eating habits, alcohol and cancer

This video shows a lecture focusing on the importance of food and alcohol in primary and secondary cancer prevention and during ongoing cancer treatment. It is also highlighted how the advice given during ongoing treatment may differ from those offered for preventive purposes. 

Source: Regional Cancer Center

Educational film about alcohol and smoking linked to cancer

4 September 2020

The Stockholm Gotland Regional Cancer Center is part of the Stockholm Region. RCC´s mission is to develop and follow up cancer care in the healthcare region. 

Report: Alcohol and Cancer (2016/2017)

Every year, IOGT-NTO, in collaboration with the Foundation Responsibility for the Future, Swedish Nurses' Association, SFAM (Swedish Association for General Practice), CERA (Center for Research and Education on Risk Use, Addiction and Addiction at the University of Gothenburg), publishes a research report. In 2016 the topic was alcohol and cancer.

“Healthy living and lifestyles are a strong trend in Sweden, but no other EU nationality knows less about or is less aware of the link between alcohol and cancer. And given that alcohol is the second most common contributory factor in terms of the global cancer burden, according to the World Health Organisation, this is something we are keen to change. Which is why we hope that this report can help boost knowledge levels and awareness, and increase interest in the issue, both in the health care sector and in society as a whole,” write publishers in the foreword of the report.

Report in English

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Systembolaget: alcohol and cancer

Alcohol can cause cancer in various ways.

  • When the body breaks down alcohol, acetaldehyde is formed. This is a carcinogen.

  • Alcohol raises the body's level of hormones, such as estrogen. Elevated levels of estrogen increase the risk of breast cancer.

  • Alcohol affects cell protection so that other carcinogens can more easily penetrate the cells.

  • Alcohol weakens the immune system's "killer cells" that kill tumour cells.

  • Alcohol reduces the protection of the mouth and throat against other carcinogens.

  • Obesity is a significant risk factor for cancer. Alcohol is high in calories and can contribute to obesity.

 

Find more from Systembolaget

Systembolaget´s seminar - Alcohol and cancer

In April 2016, Systembolaget and Cancerfonden organized a seminar on alcohol and cancer. 

Mef Nilbert, professor of oncology: In Sweden, it is estimated that 3,800 - 4,000 cancer cases are due to alcohol. According to the WHO, the World Health Organization, five per cent of cancer cases are alcohol-related. This corresponds to 770,000 cancer cases worldwide.

Helena Jernström, associate professor in experimental oncology: Breast cancer is a disease that affects every ninth woman. Annually, 8,040 people are affected. But why
do you have breast cancer? Several risk factors come into play. Nine out of ten do not have hereditary breast cancer. Other things come into play. Alcohol also plays a role in this context - the age one starts to drink before the first child affects hormone levels, increasing the risk. The longer you
wait with alcohol, the better. Ideally, it would be best if you waited to the age of 25, although we know that few start drinking alcohol so late.

Before the seminar, a SIFO survey was conducted about the Swedes' knowledge of the connection between alcohol and cancer. It turned out that over half believe that preventive measures can reduce the number of cancer cases. However, the link between alcohol and cancer is unknown. "We can state that many, closer to every third, are unsure whether alcohol increases the risk of being affected. It is imperative to spread this knowledge. We hope that this seminar can contribute to increased knowledge and understanding," said Malin Sandquist, Systembolaget´s business manager.

Find more about the seminar HERE.