9 in 10 don’t link alcohol and cancer

Cancer Research UK. Published online: 1st April 2016

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Almost 90 per cent of people in England don’t associate drinking alcohol with an increased risk of cancer, according to a new report commissioned by Cancer Research UK.

Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of seven different cancers – liver, breast, bowel, mouth, throat, oesophageal (food pipe), laryngeal (voice box) – but when people were asked “which, if any, health conditions do you think can result from drinking too much alcohol?” just 13 per cent of adults mentioned cancer.

The survey also highlighted a lack of understanding of the link between drinking alcohol and the risk of developing certain types of cancer. When prompted by asking about seven different cancer types, 80 per cent said they thought alcohol caused liver cancer but only 18 per cent were aware of the link with breast cancer. In contrast alcohol causes 3,200 breast cancer cases each year compared to 400 cases of liver cancer.

The report, produced by researchers at the University of Sheffield, comes ahead of the consultation closing on how well new drinking guidelines proposed by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers in January 2016, are communicated. These drew attention to the link between alcohol and cancer, and highlighted the need for greater public awareness of this risk. The findings are based on a nationally representative online survey of 2,100** people conducted in July 2015.

The study also showed that only one in five people could correctly identify the previous recommended maximum number of units that should not be exceeded in a day, as recommended at that time in 2015. Among drinkers, as few as one in 10 men (10.8 per cent) and one in seven women (15.2 per cent) correctly identified these recommended limits and used them to track their drinking habits.

Read the full commentary here

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