WHO recommends alcohol tax hike in Europe to fight cancer

Increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages is "one of the best measures" to prevent cancer with a "potentially high impact," the WHO's European office said, adding countries like Russia and the UK would benefit most.

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COPENHAGEN - The World Health Organization on Monday recommended doubling alcohol taxes in Europe as a means to prevent nearly 5,000 cancer deaths every year.

Increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages is "one of the best measures" to prevent cancer with a "potentially high impact," the WHO's European office said, adding countries like Russia and the UK would benefit most.

Alcohol consumption is causally linked to oral cavity, pharynx, oesophagus, colorectal, liver, larynx, and female breast cancer, the WHO said.

WHO said its model projections showed "an estimated 10,700 new cancer cases and 4,850 alcohol-related cancer deaths could be avoided annually in the WHO European Region by doubling current excise duties on alcoholic beverages."

This represents about 6% of new cases and deaths from alcohol-related cancers in the WHO's European region, which comprises 53 countries and territories and includes Russia and several Central Asian nations.

The WHO's regional office said it estimates that 180,000 cases and 85,000 deaths every year "were estimated to be caused by alcohol".

For the WHO, current levels of alcohol taxation remain "low" in many parts of Europe, particularly in the 27-nation European Union.

Russia, the UK and Germany would save the most lives by adopting the tax measure, with 725, 680 and 525 deaths averted respectively, according to the model published in The Lancet, the British medical journal.

It said a doubling of taxes would in particular help in preventing deaths from breast cancer (1,000 deaths per year) and colorectal cancer (1,700).

The WHO said 4.8 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in Europe in 2020.

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