glas of wine

Research on alcohol as risk factor for cancer

Harriet Rumgay defended her PhD dissertation on Thursday 10 November 2022 at the Erasmus University. Her thesis is titeled: ’Measuring the Impact of Alcohol on the Global Burden of Cancer: International analyses of alcohol-related cancers‘.  She is researcher at IARC - International Agency for Research on Cancer / World Health Organization. In this video she presents the main findings of her research and calls for effective policies to increase public awareness of the risks of alcohol consumption and to reduce the burden of cancers caused by alcohol consumption. An estimated 741000 new cases of cancer in 2020 were associated with alcohol consumption globally. About three quarters of these cancers occurred in men.

At least seven cancer types

Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of at least seven different cancer types including cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, bowel, and breast. This thesis provides a critical assessment of the impact of alcohol on the global burden of cancer through descriptive analyses of alcohol-related cancers and cancer burden attributable to alcohol. 

Preventable cases of cancer

As part of this thesis, Rumgay estimated the global burden of cancer in 2020 that was caused by alcohol drinking and found that more than 740,000 cases of cancer in 2020 were due to alcohol drinking. This included more than 100,000 cases caused by drinking up to one or two alcoholic drinks per day. 


She also estimated the sizeable economic impact of cancer deaths caused by alcohol and the effect of alcohol policy changes on cancer burden in Europe. Policy measures that increase the price of alcohol are among the most effective and cost-effective policies to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed among the population and will ultimately reduce the burden of cancer caused by alcohol drinking.


The findings of the research are published:

H Rumgay, K Shield, H Charvat, P Ferrari, V Lemmens, J Rehm, I Soerjomataram. European burden of cancer in 2020 attributable to alcohol use. European Journal of Public Health, Volume 31, Issue Supplement_3, October 2021, ckab164.857,

Rumgay, H., Ferlay, J., de Martel, C., Georges, D., Ibrahim, A. S., Zheng, R., Wei, W., Lemmens, V. E. P. P., & Soerjomataram, I. (2022). Global, regional and national burden of primary liver cancer by subtype. European journal of cancer (Oxford, England : 1990), 161, 108–118.

Rumgay, H., Arnold, M., Laversanne, M., Whiteman, D. C., Thrift, A. P., Wei, W., Lemmens, V. E. P. P., & Soerjomataram, I. (2021). International Trends in Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Adenocarcinoma Incidence. The American journal of gastroenterology, 116(5), 1072–1076.

Rumgay's full thesis is also available: Cancer: International analyses of alcohol-related cancers