Alcohol will cause around 135,000 cancer deaths over the next 20 years and cost the NHS around £2 billion in treatments, finds a new report by Sheffield University commissioned by Cancer Research UK.
By 2035, there could be around 7,100 cancer deaths every year in the UK linked to alcohol consumption, with oesophageal cancer likely to see the largest increase, followed by bowel cancer, mouth and throat cancer, breast cancer and liver cancer, it warns.
Based on current trends, the report forecasts that there are likely to be more than 1.2 million hospital admissions for cancer over the period, which will cost the NHS £100 million, on average, every year.
"These new figures reveal the devastating impact alcohol will have over the coming years. That's why it's hugely important the public are aware of the link between alcohol and cancer, and what they can do to improve their risk," said Alison Cox, director of prevention at Cancer Research UK.
But it seems that the public is largely unaware of the link between drinking alcohol and cancer; a Cancer Research UK study published earlier this year that showed 9 in 10 people didn't know that it regular consumption can increase the risk of developing the disease.
"If we are to change the nation's drinking habits and try to mitigate the impact alcohol will have then national health campaigns are needed to provide clear information about the health risks of drinking alcohol," stressed Cox.
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance said the findings reinforce the need for a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol. "It is clear from the report that MUP will save lives, including those lost to cancer, and ease the burden on our health service," he said, also noting that "importantly, MUP will do this while leaving moderate drinkers and prices in pubs and bars unaffected".
"In addition, we need mandatory health information on the labels of all alcoholic products, informing the public of the link between alcohol and cancer, and the new low-risk drinking guidelines".