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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Cancer Care Ontario finds thousands of cancer cases caused by alcohol consumption

Ontarians unaware of the cancer risks associated with drinking

Toronto, April 22, 2014 – As many as 3,000 new cancer cases each year in Ontariocan be attributed to alcohol consumption, according to a report released today by Cancer Care Ontario (CCO).

The report, entitled Cancer Risk Factors in Ontario: Alcohol, is part of a series that examines cancer risk factors facing Ontarians.

“Many people are unaware of the relation between alcohol consumption and cancer,” says Dr. Linda Rabeneck, vice president of Prevention and Cancer Control for CCO. “In fact, drinking alcohol has been shown to cause oral cancers as well as esophageal, larynx, liver, colorectal and breast cancers.”

The findings of the report demonstrate that a substantial number of cancers diagnosed in Ontario could be prevented by reducing alcohol consumption in the population, but that more awareness is needed, as only one third of Canadians are aware of the link between drinking alcohol and cancer. “People have been aware of the health effects of smoking for decades, but very few know that drinking can also cause cancer,” says Dr. Rabeneck.

According to recommendations from the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research, if alcoholic drinks are consumed, the number of drinks should be limited to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. 

Drinking in excess of alcohol cancer prevention recommendations varied considerably across the province; it is clear, however, that Ontarians with higher incomes and those living in rural areas are more likely to exceed the recommendations than those with lower incomes or in urban areas.

“While many Ontarians drink without causing harm to themselves or others, there are significant health and social problems associated with alcohol consumption, including cancer. To support individuals to make healthy choices, alcohol regulations should be grounded in public health and safety principles.”
Dr. Catherine Zahn, President and CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Cancer Care Ontario – an Ontario government agency – drives quality and continuous improvement in disease prevention and screening, the delivery of care and the patient experience, for cancer, chronic kidney disease and access to care for key health services. Known for its innovation and results-driven approaches, Cancer Care Ontario leads multi-year system planning, contracts for services with hospitals and providers, develops and deploys information systems, establishes guidelines and standards and tracks performance targets to ensure system-wide improvements in cancer, chronic kidney disease and access to care.


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Tori Gass

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