A study, published today in the Drug and Alcohol Review journal, has identified that the alcohol industry is misrepresenting evidence about the alcohol-related risk of cancer with activities that have parallels with those of the tobacco industry.
The team, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine with the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, analysed the information relating to cancer, which appears on the websites and documents of nearly 30 alcohol industry organisations around the world between September 2016 and December 2016.
Alcohol consumption is a well-established risk factor for a range of cancers, including oral cavity, liver, breast and colorectal cancers, and accounts for about 4% of new cancer cases annually in the UK. The study found that when alcohol industry materials mentioned breast cancer, 21 of the organisations presented no, or misleading, information on breast cancer, such as presenting many alternative possible risk factors for breast cancer, without acknowledging the independent risk of alcohol consumption.
Eluned Hughes, Head of Public Health and Information at Breast Cancer Now said:
“It has been known for some time that regularly drinking alcohol is associated with a higher risk of developing breast cancer – even one drink a day can increase the risk.
“While there are a number of factors out of our control that affect a person’s risk of developing the disease – including age, genetics and height – alcohol consumption is one of the few that we can change.
“It is estimated that 6% of breast cancers in women are linked to drinking alcohol, yet a study from the University of Sheffield found when prompted, only 18% of people are aware of the connection. The more you regularly drink, the greater your risk of breast cancer, and it is crucial that women have clear guidance on the significant health risks of alcohol.
“We would encourage any woman who is concerned about her risk of developing breast cancer, or who is seeking advice on cutting down drinking to speak to her GP.”