The ethanol in beer, wine, and liquor is a toxic substance in terms of its direct and indirect effects on a wide range of body organs.
The toxicity of alcohol affects all tissues and organs of the human body.
It is a causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions.
No other risk factor in the Global Burden of Disease study involves so many types of disease and injury conditions as alcohol.
Alcohol kills 3 million people worldwide every year. It means: Every 10 seconds a human being dies due of alcohol.
Global health harm
The estimated burden of alcohol-related death, disease and disability has increased in the last decades. Alcohol remains one of the leading risk factors contributing to the global burden of disease. It is the eight leading preventable risk factor of disease.
The contribution of alcohol to the global disease burden has been increasing from 2.6% of DALYs* in 1990 to 3.7% of DALYs in 2019.
Alcohol contributes more to the global disease burden than, for example, the proportion of deaths from HIV/AIDS (2.8%), violence (0.9%) or tuberculosis (1.7%).
In high income countries alcohol use is the second fasted growing risk factor and in LMICs it is the fourth fastest rising risk factor for the global disease burden.
Alcohol is a major obstacle to sustainable development and economic prosperity.
NCDs and mental ill-Health due to alcohol
There is a causal relationship between alcohol use and a range of mental and behavioural disorders, other non-communicable conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, as well as injuries.
Alcohol and cancer
Alcohol was classified as a Group 1 carcinogen (highest level) in 1988 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization. Since then, several hundred more epidemiological studies have reported on the link between the alcohol use and the risk for cancer at various sites.
After tobacco, alcohol use is the biggest risk factor for cancer, according to the WHO.
- When people consume alcohol, different enzymes in the body will metabolize it into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is harmful to human cells and will cause breakage and mutations in the DNA.
- The public and members of the medical professions are largely unaware of the role of alcohol as a cause of cancer.
- In the last decades, the total number of cancer cases due to alcohol has increased to approximately 770,000 worldwide or 5.5% of the total number of cancer cases.
- Alcohol use leads to 480,000 cancer deaths or 5.8% of the total number of cancer deaths.
- For every 10g of alcohol consumed regularly each day, risk of female breast cancer increases by ca 12%.