Alcohol and Cancer in the Caribbean Webinar

by HCC

On November 17, 2017, HCC presented ‘Alcohol and Cancer in the Caribbean‘ a webinar for the 2nd Annual Caribbean Alcohol Reduction Day (CARD).  With the support of it’s partners PAHO, CARPHA and CARICOM hosted the 2nd Annual Caribbean Alcohol Reduction Day (CARD). The theme for 2017 was: Drink Less, Reduce Cancer.

2nd ANNUAL CARIBBEAN ALCOHOL REDUCTION DAYThe harmful use of alcohol, along with tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, is recognized as one of four major common risk factors for NCDs; yet alcohol has received comparatively less attention than the other 3 risk factors. Alcohol contributes to cancer, liver and heart disease, mental illness, violence, accidents and injuries. Alcohol consumption causes many cancers including: Mouth cancer, Pharyngeal cancer (upper throat), Oesophageal cancer (food pipe), Laryngeal cancer (voice box), Breast cancer, Bowel cancer, and Liver cancer[1]. Globally the harmful use of alcohol is linked to 3.3 million preventable deaths annually. Excessive drinking of alcohol is a major health risk, occurring particularly increasingly among Caribbean youth resulting in alcohol related violent deaths among the top 5 causes of death in the region and the commonest cause of death among young men. Young women are especially vulnerable; alcohol consumption disproportionately increases the risk of breast cancer between menarche and first birth[2].

The objectives of the 2017 CARD were to:

  1. Increase public and policymaker awareness about the harmful effects of alcohol misuse.
  2. Increase public and policymaker awareness about the links between alcohol consumption and cancer risk.
  3. Call on Policy makers to implement specific policies to reduce alcohol consumption. In order to create environments in which drinking less is the easier option, the HCC calls on governments to implement supportive policies. The call to action this year is in line with the updated WHO Best Buy Interventions[3] to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.
    1. Increase excise taxes on alcoholic beverages[4]
    2. Enact and enforce bans or comprehensive restrictions on exposure to alcohol advertising (across multiple types of media)[5]
    3. Enact and enforce restrictions on the physical availability of retailed alcohol (via reduced hours of sale)[6]

Global and regional experts discussed the harmful use of alcohol and its intersection with cancer risk, and explored the policy options to reduce the harmful use of alcohol among Caribbean people.

The presenters were:

Alcohol Consumption and Cancer in the Caribbean  – Dr. Kevin Shield, Independent Scientist, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, Head, WHO/PAHO Collaborating Centre, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
The burden of disease caused by alcohol consumption is a key health problem confronting all countries. Furthermore, alcohol consumption is a leading risk factor for the development of cancer, with a large portion of the global alcohol attributable death burden being caused by cancer. Accordingly, this presentation provides an overview for the Caribbean of historical and current alcohol consumption levels, and presents data on the resulting number of alcohol-attributable new cancer cases and cancer deaths in 2012. Furthermore, this presentation will cover policies which countries can implement to reduce harmful alcohol consumption and the resulting health burdens.

Alcohol Policies in the CaribbeanDr. Maristela Monteiro, Senior Advisor Alcohol and Substance Abuse, PAHO.
In 2011, all Member States adopted a regional plan of action to reduce harmful use of alcohol. Dr Monteiro will present on the status of alcohol policies and plans for the Caribbean countries.

Alcohol use among the elderly in the eastern Caribbean: associations with NCDs and psychosocial issues – Dr. Rohan Maharaj, HCC Alcohol Policy Advisor.
This presentation reports on the prevalence of alcohol use and it’s correlation with NCDs and psychosocial issues among populations over 60 years old in the eastern Caribbean as part of research undertaken through the ECHORN (Eastern Caribbean Health Outcomes Research Network) Cohort Study (ECS) launched in 2013.


[1] http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/alcohol-and-cancer/how-alcohol-causes-cancer
[2] McPherson, K., Steel, C. M., & Dixon, J. M. (2009). 5 Breast cancer—epidemiology, risk factors, and genetics. ABC of Breast Diseases, 69, 24
[3] Effective interventions with cost effectiveness analysis (CEA) ≤ I$100 per DALY averted in LMICs
[4] Requires an effective system for tax administration and should be combined with efforts to prevent tax avoidance and tax evasion
[5] Requires capacity for implementing and enforcing regulations and legislation
[6] Formal controls on sale need to be complemented by actions addressing illicit or informally produced alcohol

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