Study: More Than Half of US Adults Not Aware of Link Between Alcohol, Cancer

Data suggest that few US adults are aware that wine can increase the risk of cancer.

US adults showed a low awareness of the risk between alcohol and cancer, according to research published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. Although research confirms this association, 1 in 10 US adults believe that wine can decrease risk of cancer.

The authors suggest that further education could be useful to increase awareness and shift public perception.

“This study’s findings underscore the need to develop interventions for educating the public about the cancer risks of alcohol use, particularly in the prevailing context of national dialogue about the purported heart health benefits of wine,” said senior study author William M.P. Klein, associate director of the National Cancer Institute’s Behavioral Research Program, in a press release.

Among participants, awareness of the link between beer and cancer was 10.9% lower than awareness about the link between liquor and cancer. Awareness was also lower among older adults—overall, those aged 60 years and older were 13.7% less likely to know about the link between alcohol and cancer compared to those aged 18 to 39 years.

Alcohol is suggested to contribute to more than 75,000 cancer cases and nearly 19,000 cancer-related deaths between 2013 and 2016. Yet more than 50% of US adults did not know alcohol could impact cancer risk.

Researchers aimed to understand the level of awareness that US adults have about the link between alcohol and cancer, since data suggest that “all types of alcoholic beverages, including wine, increase cancer risk,” Klein said in the press release. So, researchers accounted for liquor, wine, and beer.

Klein and colleagues evaluated data from 3865 participants surveyed in the 2020 Health Information National Trends Survey 5 Cycle 4, in which participants answered the question, “In your opinion, how much does drinking the following types of alcohol affect the risk of getting cancer?” Respondents also answered questions about the links between alcohol and heart disease, and current levels of alcohol consumption.

Among participants, 31.2% were aware of the link between liquor and cancer. This awareness decreased with beer (24.9%) and dipped further for wine (20.3%). And despite the current literature, 10% of US adults believe that wine decreases the risk of cancer, and 2.2% said beer decreases this risk. A lower 1.7% suggest that liquor can decrease risk of cancer.

Nearly 39% of US adults did not know of the association between liquor and the risk of heart disease—overall, nearly one-third of adults were not aware of this risk.

The study includes limitations, such as the authors did not use a conventional survey structure. Additionally, some data were collected during the COVID-19 pandemic when US adults reported heavier drinking during this time.

“Educating the public about how alcohol increases cancer risk will not only empower consumers to make more informed decisions, but may also prevent and reduce excessive alcohol use, as well as cancer morbidity and mortality,” Klein said in the press release.

Reference

American Association for Cancer Research. Few Americans are Aware of Links Between Alcohol and Cancer Risk. AACR News Release. December 1, 2022. Accessed December 1, 2022.

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