Many of us indulge in alcohol in some form or another. The frequency and type of alcohol consumed range from an occasional treat to a regular excess. Whether it’s a beer during a football game, sharing a bottle of wine with an old friend, or a cocktail while relaxing by the pool. While these statistics suggest alcohol consumption is common, results from a new survey indicate that awareness of alcohol’s role in cancer risk is uncommon.
Alcohol persists as a leading modifiable risk factor for cancer. In fact, a 2021 study found that alcohol consumption contributed to over 75,000 cancer cases and nearly 19,000 cancer deaths. Beer, wine, and liquor all contribute to cancer risk, and several cancer types, including liver, colorectal and female breast cancers, have been linked to alcohol consumption.
“Apart from getting really drunk and forgetting to take your medication that is. Can drinking while taking antibiotics make you feel sicker than you already are? Does it alter the efficacy of the medication we’re taking for better or worse? Does it really matter that much?. Let’s distil the science behind how alcohol and antibiotics interact in the body based on pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics”
— Isaac Ogutu, on AfyaStoryline Weekly Editions E28
A team of researchers set out to understand awareness of the alcohol-cancer link among adults in the United States. The findings, recently published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, suggest public awareness of the role of alcohol consumption in cancer risk remains minimal.
This study used data from the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS). The National Cancer Institute sponsors this notional survey to collect data about public knowledge of, attitudes toward, and use of health-related information. The sample of data analyzed in this study included completed surveys from 3,865 adults.
The results of the study showed that, in addition to low public awareness of the alcohol-cancer link, the perceived health risks attributed to alcohol different by type of beverage. Overall, most of those surveyed reported not knowing how alcohol impacted cancer risk. The data demonstrated that liquor was associated with the highest awareness of the alcohol–cancer link, with 31.2% of those surveyed acknowledging that liquor consumption increased cancer risk. Public perception of the cancer risk conferred by beer and wine appears lower at 24.9% and 20.3%, respectively. However, the study also demonstrated some US adults believe alcohol, particularly wine (about 10% of those surveyed), decreases cancer risk.
The authors suggest that their study promotes the need to educate adults about the link between alcohol consumption and cancer risk to make more people aware that all alcoholic beverages can increase consumers’ risk of cancer.