According to a new report, European drinking habits are putting drinkers at a 21% higher risk of developing colorectal cancer and other digestive cancers.
The report, released on Tuesday by United European Gastroenterology (UEG), shows that EU citizens in all 28 states have a ‘moderate' intake of alcohol, defined as between 1 and 4 drinks per day.
No EU countries were found to have 'light' alcohol consumption, defined as on average less than 1 alcoholic drink per day per capita.
The findings show that EU citizens consume an average of 2 alcoholic drinks per day, placing them at a higher risk of both colorectal and esophageal cancer.
'Heavy' drinkers' are those who consume more than 4 drinks per day and were found to be at an increased risk of pancreatic, liver and gastric cancer.
These five cancers are the five most common digestive cancers worldwide, causing almost three million deaths per year and contributing to over a third of global cancer deaths.
Alcohol consumption is higher in Europe than in any other region in the world, with over one fifth of Europeans age 15 and over drinking heavily at least once a week.
Europeans also have the highest proportion of ill health and premature death directly linked to alcohol, however research has shown that as many as 90% of people are unaware of the link between alcohol and cancer.
"One of the main challenges in addressing high drinking levels is how deeply embedded alcohol consumption is within the European society, both socially and culturally," commented leading digestive health expert, Professor Markus Peck. "Political action like minimum pricing and reducing access to alcohol needs to be taken now to prevent many future casualties. Research then has to follow to help generate data and allow us to fine-tune future political activity."
The UEG are now calling for a pan-European approach for clear and consistent labeling on products to avoid confusion and mixed messages on recommended units, glasses and volumes of alcohol and appropriate levels of consumption.
Experts believe that increased pressure on the alcohol industry to develop clearer and more responsible labeling along with tighter regulations on the marketing of alcohol will help to tackle the crisis, with results in France so far proving that these methods will be effective.
Stricter marketing in the country along with regulations for drinking at work, has led to a decline in alcohol consumption and therefore also a decline in rates of digestive cancers.