“Most Americans don’t know this.”

According to research, between 2013 and 2016, alcohol use was a factor in about 19,000 cancer deaths and more than 75,000 new cases of the disease annually.

Wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages all raise the chance of developing cancer. To date, alcohol intake has been associated with seven cancer types, including breast, oral, and colon cancers.

“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,” remarks lead author Andrew Seidenberg.

Even though research shows that all alcoholic drinks, including wine, increase the risk of many types of cancer, people’s knowledge about different types of alcohol is very different.

Seidenberg and colleagues examined information from the 2020 Health Information National Trends Survey 5 Cycle 4, which included survey answers from 3,865 people, to gauge Americans’ knowledge of the association between alcohol and cancer.

People were asked, “In your opinion, how much does drinking the following types of alcohol affect the risk of getting cancer?”

Wine, beer, and liquor responses were noted. The respondent’s knowledge of the connections between alcohol and heart disease was evaluated by additional questions. Respondents were also questioned about how much alcohol they now consume.

The greatest level of awareness of the alcohol-cancer connection was for liquor, with 31.2 percent of U.S. people aware of the danger, followed by beer (24.9 percent) and wine (24.9 percent) (20.3 percent).

  • 10% of U.S. people believe that wine reduces cancer risk, whereas 2.2% believe that beer reduces danger and 1.7% believe that liquor reduces risk.
  • More than half of adults in the U.S. said they didn’t know how these drinks affected the risk of cancer.
  • Adults in the U.S. who knew that drinking alcohol made them more likely to get heart disease also knew more about the link between alcohol and cancer. Awareness of heart disease followed the same patterns as awareness of cancer. For example, 38.9%, 36.4%, and 25.1% of U.S. adults thought that liquor, beer, and wine, respectively, increased the risk of heart disease.
  • When asked about alcohol’s role as a potential carcinogen, fewer seniors raised their hands. Only 15.7% of U.S. residents over 60 knew there was a danger from wine, 17.8% from beer, and 23.7% from liquor. Comparatively, only 26.1% of 18–39-year-old U.S. adults knew about the risk of drinking wine, 33.1% of beer drinkers, and 39.1% of liquor drinkers. Seidenberg said that this could be because older adults have been drinking for a longer time.
  • Non-drinkers, drinkers, and heavy drinkers all had comparable rates of self-awareness.

“All types of alcoholic beverages, including wine, increase cancer risk,” adds Klein. “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.”

The authors suggested that interventions could include mass media campaigns, cancer warning labels, and patient-provider communications. Tailoring messages to desired audiences could help increase message relevance, Klein said.

“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,” he adds.

The authors proposed that potential treatments may include mass media campaigns, cancer warning labels, and patient-provider dialogue. Klein believes that tailoring messaging to specific audiences might assist boost message relevance.

Potential limitations identified by the authors include the unconditional form of several survey questions; for example, questions on knowledge of the alcohol-cancer link were not stratified by how much a respondent drank.

They also mentioned that part of the data was gathered during the COVID-19 outbreak when many Americans reported drinking more than normal.

Source: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-22-0420

Image Credit: Getty  


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