In Brief

Alcohol-related cancers 'to kill 135,000 in next 20 years'

Patients with cancers linked to alcohol consumption will cost the NHS £2bn by 2035, says charity

Unless action is taken soon, cancer deaths caused by drinking will kill 135,000 people and cost the NHS £2bn by 2035, according to a new study commissioned by Cancer Research.

The report by the University of Sheffield urges the government to put in place a minimum price-per-unit cost for alcohol in order to reduce consumption and potentially save the NHS money.

"A 50p minimum price per units of alcohol could reduce deaths linked to alcohol by around 7,200, including around 670 cancer deaths. It would also reduce healthcare costs by £1.3bn," says Cancer Research. "This follows a recent court decision in Scotland which found that a minimum unit price would not break European law."

It says that the number of patients with oesophageal cancer, bowel cancer and liver cancer are expected to rise in the next two decades – three cancers with strong links to alcohol consumption.

Another Cancer Research study published earlier this year showed that nine of out ten people are unaware of the link between alcohol and cancer.

The government has already lowered the recommended maximum number of units for men to 14, in line with the existing limit for women. It has also suggested that there is no safe limit for alcohol consumption and that any alcohol intake can substantially increase the risk of cancer.

Sir Ian Gilmore, a professor of hepatology and chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, told The Guardian: "It is clear from the report that MUP [minimum unit pricing] will save lives, including those lost to cancer, and ease the burden on our health service. Importantly, MUP will do this while leaving moderate drinkers and prices in pubs and bars unaffected."

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