Half of Australians unaware excessive alcohol increases cancer risk

  • Post category:World News

Many Australians are putting themselves at risk of developing cancer because they have no idea that drinking too much alcohol is an important risk factor, new research shows.

From the Guardian

Only slightly more than half of 2,482 people surveyed by Cancer Council NSW and Monash University researchers knew that limiting drinking also cut the risk of developing cancers of the breast, liver, mouth, throat and oesophagus.

Those who reported drinking the most were least likely to be aware of the association, the study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy found.

Kathy Chapman, a co-author on the paper, said up to 6.5% of cancer cases could be attributed to long-term drinking, and even low levels of alcohol consumption placed drinkers at an increased risk.

“We really need a lot more community awareness out there about the link between alcohol and cancer because we now have enough evidence to say it’s an important risk factor,” Chapman, director of cancer programs at Cancer Council NSW, said.

“What we also found was those who didn’t understand the link between alcohol and cancer were also less likely to support alcohol management policies around pricing, availability, marketing and labelling.”

Levels of support were highest for restricting online alcohol advertising to young people, better information about drinking guidelines on alcohol labels and health warnings on alcohol products, the research found.

There were lower levels of support for policies that would increase price and decrease availability of alcohol, such as placing a volumetric tax on alcohol, despite research showing those interventions are most effective.

National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines recommend healthy men and women drink no more than two standard drinks per day.

But according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data, one-fifth of Australians

consume alcohol at levels which put them at risk of harm over their lifetime.

Mike Daube, director of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, said there was a worrying lack of understanding about the long-term harms of alcohol among Australians.

“The case for proper alcohol health warnings is overwhelming,” Daube, a professor of health policy at Curtin University, said.

“It is outrageous that the alcohol industry has been able to prevent proper health warnings on its products. This means that consumers are being denied crucial information that might prevent many cancers and other harms.”

Alcohol-related cancers and the suffering and misery they caused were preventable, he said, and government should act urgently to inform the public properly about the long-term dangers of alcohol use.

“The industry will oppose these because they work; but the health of Australians should matter more than the financial health of global corporations,” he said.