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Many Americans unaware of alcohol links to cancer risk

December 01, 2022

2 min read

Source/Disclosures

Source:

Seidenberg AB, et al. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2022;doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-22-0420.

Disclosures:
NCI supported the study. The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.


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Many Americans lack awareness of the association between alcohol consumption and increased cancer risk, according to study results published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Awareness of this risk significantly varied according to alcohol type, and some survey respondents believed alcohol reduced cancer risk, findings showed.

Percentage of U.S. adults aware of alcohol-cancer link, by beverage type.
Data derived from Seidenberg AB, et al. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2022;doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-22-0420.

Background and methods

“Alcohol is a leading modifiable risk factor for cancer in the United States and previous research has shown that most Americans don’t know this,” Andrew B. Seidenberg, PhD, MPH, researcher in the tobacco control research branch of the behavioral research program at NCI, told Healio. “In an attempt to better understand why awareness is so low, we examined the relationship between awareness of the alcohol-cancer link with beliefs about potential health benefits of alcohol.”

Seidenberg and colleagues assessed awareness of the association between wine, beer and liquor consumption and cancer risk among 3,865 adults included in NCI’s 2020 Health Information National Trends Survey 5 Cycle 4.

Researchers also asked respondents about their current alcohol intake, as well as their awareness of the association between alcohol consumption and heart disease risk.

Findings

Awareness of the association between alcohol consumption and cancer risk appeared highest for liquor (31.2%), followed by beer (24.9%) and wine (20.3%).

In addition, 10.3% of respondents reported that wine decreases cancer risk, whereas 2.2% reported beer decreases risk and 1.7% reported liquor decreases risk.

Of note, more than half of respondents reported not knowing how alcoholic beverages affected cancer risk.

Moreover, older adults appeared less likely than younger adults to be aware that alcohol increased cancer risk.

Among those aged older than 60 years, 15.7% reported awareness of the association between wine and cancer risk, 17.8% of the association with beer and 23.7% of the association with liquor. Conversely, among those aged between 18 and 39 years, 26.1% reported awareness of the association with wine, 33.1% of the association with beer and 39.1% of the association with liquor.

Results showed similar rates of awareness of cancer risk among nondrinkers, drinkers and heavier drinkers, researchers noted.

Respondents who reported that alcohol consumption increases heart disease risk also had higher adjusted predicted probabilities of awareness of the alcohol-cancer link for wine (58.6%), beer (52.4%) and liquor (59.4%).

However, researchers observed lower adjusted predicted probabilities of awareness among those unsure of the effect of alcohol on heart disease risk (wine, 6%; beer, 8.6%; liquor, 13.2%), as well as those who reported that alcohol lowered heart disease risk (wine, 16.2%; beer, 21.6%; liquor, 23.8%) or had no effect on heart disease risk (wine, 10.2%; beer, 12%; liquor, 16.9%).

Limitations of the study included the unconditional structure of certain survey questions and that some data were collected during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many Americans reported drinking more than usual, researchers noted.

Implications

“Clinicians can play an important role in helping to educate the public about the alcohol-cancer link,” Seidenberg said. “Research is needed to identify messages and messaging strategies that can be used to increase awareness of this important modifiable risk factor for cancer.”

References :

  • Few Americans are aware of links between alcohol and cancer risk (press release). Available at: www.aacr.org/about-the-aacr/newsroom/. Published Dec. 1, 2022. Accessed Dec. 1, 2022.
  • Seidenberg AB, et al. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2022;doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-22-0420.
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