In a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, scientists examine how awareness about alcohol being a risk factor for certain types of cancers relates to alcohol consumption levels among the adult United States population.
Study: Alcohol and cancer risk beliefs as correlates of alcohol consumption status. Image Credit: sama_ja / Shutterstock.com
Alcohol consumption has been linked to the incidence of certain types of cancers including esophageal, hepatic, breast, and colorectal cancers. Recent statistics report that about 5.6% of incident cancers in the U.S. are linked to alcohol consumption, thus suggesting that it is a modifiable risk factor.
Over 50% of the adult population in the U.S. reports consuming alcohol over the past month. However, a large portion of the population remains unaware of the increased risk of cancer associated with alcohol consumption, with awareness of this association depending on the type of alcoholic beverage being consumed.
About the study
In the present study, researchers examine a representative group of the adult U.S. population above the age of 21 years using data from the Health Information National Trends Survey conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 2020. The final dataset comprising no missing data consisted of information from 2,906 participants.
The primary independent variable being examined was awareness about alcohol consumption as a risk factor for cancer. To this end, the participants were queried about the level of cancer risk associated with the consumption of wine, beer, and liquor, each of which were assessed separately.
Responses were categorized into three groups including alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer, alcohol consumption has no effect or decreases the risk of cancer, or the participant is not aware of the association, for each of the examined alcohol types.
The number of days in a week that the participants consumed any alcoholic beverage, as well as the average number of drinks consumed each drinking day, were used to calculate the average weekly consumption of alcohol for each participant, which was considered current alcohol consumption. These results were then further categorized into two groups based on no consumption or the consumption of one or more drinks a week.
The status of current alcohol consumption was then used to calculate the weighted proportions of different categories of cancer risk awareness related to alcohol consumption. Additionally, the association between current alcohol consumption and awareness about the consumption of each type of alcoholic beverage and cancer risk was evaluated separately using weighted logistic regression models. These models were also adjusted for factors such as sex, age, education levels, and race and ethnicity.
U.S. adults largely unaware of cancer risk with alcohol
Over 50% of the participants consumed alcohol regularly. As compared to individuals with no alcohol consumption, a substantial portion of alcohol drinkers believed that alcohol consumption either had no effect on or decreased the risk of cancer, irrespective of the type of alcoholic beverage consumed.
Among those who reported current consumption of alcohol, 34% believed that consuming wine either decreased the risk of cancer or had no effect on cancer risk. Furthermore, the logistic regression models that were adjusted for various demographic factors reported that those who believed that drinking wine or beer had no effect on or reduced the risk of cancer had a higher probability of consuming any type of alcohol.
The current study examined the awareness about the correlation between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of hepatic, colorectal, breast, or esophageal cancers on the average consumption of various types of alcohol among the U.S. adult population. Over 50% of the representative sample of the adult population consumed alcohol regularly, with a significant portion of alcohol drinkers believing that the consumption of any type of alcohol either had no effect on or decreased the risk of cancer.
These findings indicate that, along with the other strategies aimed at reducing alcohol consumption for various other health reasons, there is a need to inform the public about the increased risk of cancer associated with alcohol consumption. Increased awareness about the cancer risks associated with alcohol intake might help lower the overall public health burden due to alcohol-related illnesses.
- Rohde, J. A., William, M. P., & D’Angelo, H. (2023). Alcohol and cancer risk beliefs as correlates of alcohol consumption status. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2023.06.012