Few Americans understand impact of alcohol on cancer risk: survey

By Cara Murez

health day reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 2, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Alcohol increases cancer risk, but some Americans believe it does the opposite, according to a new study.

Researchers set out to understand people’s awareness of the links between alcohol and cancer, finding that many would benefit from more education on the issue.

“All types of alcoholic beverages, including wine, increase cancer risk,” said the study’s lead author, William Klein, associate director of the behavioral research program at the US National Cancer Institute. “The results of this study underscore the need to develop interventions to educate the public about the cancer risks associated with alcohol consumption, especially in the current context of national dialogue about the purported benefits of wine for heart health. “

Using data from a government survey that included responses from more than 3,800 adults, researchers analyzed responses to questions that included “In your opinion, how much does drinking the following types of alcohol affect it the risk of cancer? The investigators also asked the participants about their own alcohol consumption.

Around 31% of participants were aware of alcohol-related cancer risk, followed by almost 25% for beer and just over 20% for wine.

Some actually thought alcohol reduced cancer risk, including 10% of participants who said wine reduced risk, 2.2% who thought beer reduced risk, and 1.7% who said alcohol did, according to the results.

More than 50% of people said they did not know the impact of these drinks on cancer risk.

The study also asked participants about heart disease and alcohol. About 39%, 36% and 25% of American adults said they believe that alcohol, beer and wine, respectively, increase the risk of heart disease.

Older adults were less aware of the association of alcohol with cancer risk. This may be due to older drinking habits in older people, said Andrew Seidenberg, who led the study when he was a cancer prevention researcher at the cancer institute.

Awareness of alcohol and cancer risk was not associated with alcohol consumption. Nondrinkers, drinkers, and heavy drinkers all had similar levels of awareness.

Alcohol contributed to an average of more than 75,000 cancer cases and nearly 19,000 cancer deaths each year between 2013 and 2016, according to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

“Alcohol is one of the top modifiable risk factors for cancer in the United States, and previous research has shown that most Americans don’t know it,” Seidenberg said in an AACR press release.

All beverages containing ethanol increase the risk of cancer, including wine, beer and spirits. Alcohol consumption has been linked to breast, mouth and colon cancers.

Interventions to educate the public could include mass media campaigns, cancer warning labels and patient-provider communications, the authors said. Personalized messages could help increase message relevance, Klein noted.

“Educating the public about how alcohol increases cancer risk will not only enable consumers to make more informed decisions, but can also prevent and reduce excessive alcohol consumption, as well as cancer morbidity and mortality. “, said Klein.

Potential limitations of the study include the unconditional structure of some survey questions, the authors said. Some data was also collected during the pandemic, when many Americans reported drinking more than usual.

The results were published on December 1 in Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers and prevention.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more on the causes of cancer.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, press release, December 1, 2022

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