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Alcohol is a known risk factor for cancer and is classified by the World Health Organisation International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a Group 1 carcinogen. It is strongly linked with an increased risk of cancers of the mouth and throat (pharynx and larynx), oesophagus, bowel (colon and rectum), liver and female breast. The effect of alcohol on cancer risk is dose dependent, which means that any level of consumption will increase the risk of cancer and the risks increase with higher levels of consumption.

WHO estimates that in 2012 alcohol misuse was responsible for 3.3 million deaths (5.9 per cent) globally and 5.1% of the global burden of disease and injury. A significant portion of these deaths were from non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes (33.4 per cent) and cancers (12.5 per cent). Alcohol consumption is also associated with other significant chronic diseas, illness and injury such as chronic kidney disease, alcohol dependence, and mental illness.

The WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), adopted in 2013 following the 2011 United Nations Political Declaration on NCDs , proposes that Member States advance the implementation of existing strategies to reduce NCD risk factors. In 2012, the World Health Assembly adopted a mortality reduction target of a 25 per cent reduction  in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025, and in 2013, the Assembly adopted an alcohol target of a 10 per cent relative reduction  in the harmful use of alcohol.

In the context of the WHO Global Action Plan, the WHO Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol  provides a portfolio of interventions to guide Member States and the WHO Secretariat on ways to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. These include legal and regulatory interventions on alcohol affordabilityavailability and promotion for implementation in each country as part of national policy.

Policy Documents 


Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol  
Global status report on alcohol and health 2014  
Global Information System on Alcohol and Health (GSIAH)

WHO - European Region

Evidence for the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interventions to reduce alcohol-related harm (2009)  
European action plan to reduce the harmful use of alcohol 2012-2020  
European status report on alcohol and health 2014 

WHO - Western Pacific Region

Addressing the harmful use of alcohol - A guide to developing effective alcohol legislation (2011)  
Regional Plan of Action for the Reduction of Alcohol-related Harm in the Western Pacific (2009-2014)  
Regional Strategy to Reduce Alcohol-related Harm (2007)  
WHO Western Pacific Regional Strategy to Reduce Alcohol-related Harm: How to develop an action plan to implement the strategy (2009)