While most people in England know that drinking alcohol raises the risk of liver cancer, only a small minority also are aware of its risk to breast and other kinds of cancer.
The findings are from a study in which participants were asked “which, if any, health conditions can result from drinking too much alcohol?” Only 13 percent of respondents mentioned cancer at all.
Further, while 80 percent said they thought alcohol caused liver cancer, only 18 percent were aware of the link with breast cancer. Alcohol is linked to 3,200 breast cancer cases each year compared to 400 cases of liver cancer.
Besides breast and liver cancer, drinking alcohol is also linked to an increased risk of five other cancers—bowel, mouth, throat, esophageal (food pipe), and laryngeal (voice box).
The report also highlights the need for greater public awareness concerning new drinking guidelines proposed by the UK’s chief medical officers in January 2016.
The findings, based on a nationally representative online survey of 2,100 people conducted in July 2015, show 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 few as one in 10 men (10.8 percent) and one in seven women (15.2 percent) could correctly identify recommended limits and said they used them to track their own drinking habits.
“We’ve shown that public awareness of the increased cancer risk from drinking alcohol remains worryingly low,” says Penny Buykx, a senior research fellow at the University of Sheffield. “People link drinking and liver cancer, but most still don’t realize that cancers, including breast cancer, mouth and throat cancers, and bowel cancer are also linked with alcohol, and that risks for some cancers go up even by drinking a small amount.”
Source: University of Sheffield