Cancer Research UK has released findings from a survey which suggests public understanding of the link between alcohol consumption and cancer is "worryingly low", and is calling for more awareness of the links and lower risk drinking guidelines. See full report [pdf] and summary report [pdf].
Whilst nearly half of people identified a link between alcohol and cancer when prompted with a list of health conditions (see table), when asked to identify which health conditions can result from drinking too much without prompts, only 13% identified cancers as a possibe risk.
Alcohol consumption is associated with seven different cancers - liver, breast, bowel, mouth, throat, oesophageal (food pipe), laryngeal (voice box). These equate to around 4% of all cancers in the UK, totaling around 12,800 cases each year, as well over 60 other medical or disease conditions linked to alcohol.
Significant variation was evident in knowledge of which cancers were associated with alcohol use; whilst 80% identified liver cancer when prompted, only 18% believed breast cancer was linked despite causing many more alcohol-related cancers - 3,200 versus 400 liver cancers each year.
The study also found low awareness of the former daily drinking guidelines, with only one in five people correctly identifying them. A consultation on communicating the new weekly guidelines recently closed, although the guidelines and their uses has been subject to ongoing debate - indeed the main rationale behind the downward revision in weekly drinking amounts was identified as further evidence on cancer risks associated with moderate drinking.
The survey also identified that most people supported information on cancer risks on labels, as well as information on health, units, ABV and nutritional information. Ten per cent or less of the respondents opposed or strongly opposed labeling information on any of the suggested areas, although the report highlights the limited effectiveness of such information in itself. Additionally the survey asked which cancer related health messages were thought to be most persuasive, but found no clear consensus.
See here for a SHAAP Health Professionals guide on alcohol & cancer risks [pdf].