London | Almost 90 per cent of people in the UK do not associate drinking alcohol with an increased risk of cancer, according to a new report published today. The study, commissioned by Cancer Research UK and led by researchers from the University of Sheffield, found that just 13 per cent of adults mentioned cancer when asked which, if any, health conditions can result from drinking too much alcohol?
Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of seven different cancers – liver, breast, bowel, mouth, throat, oesophageal (food pipe), laryngeal (voice box) but the survey highlighted a lack of understanding of the link between drinking alcohol and certain types of the disease. 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’s School of Health and Related Research (SHARR), 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. 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.
We’ve shown that public awareness of the increased cancer risk from drinking alcohol remains worryingly low. People link drinking and liver cancer, but most still don’t realise that cancers including breast, mouth, throat and bowel are also linked with alcohol, said Dr Penny Buykx, a senior research fellow at The University of Sheffield and lead-author of the report.
The link between alcohol and cancer is now well established, and it’s not just heavy drinkers who are at risk. This is reflected in the new guidelines issued by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers that stated that the risk of developing a range of illnesses, including cancer, increased with any amount of alcohol you drink, said Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention. The Chief Medical Officers have been clear in their new alcohol guideline that there is no level of drinking which can be considered ‘safe’ from these risks.
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