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Europeans unaware of the cancer risks posed by alcohol, survey reveals



Europeans Unaware of the Cancer Risks Posed by Alcohol, Survey Reveals

23.02.2024 - In a new study published in BMC Research Notes, researchers have unveiled a concerning gap in the European public's awareness of the link between alcohol consumption and cancer. Despite the high levels of alcohol consumption across the continent, the study, titled "How much do Europeans know about the link between alcohol use and cancer? Results from an online survey in 14 countries" by Maria Neufeld and colleagues, reveals that a significant portion of Europeans are unaware of the risks alcohol poses to developing various types of cancer.


The survey, which spanned 14 European countries and involved over 19,000 participants, assessed baseline knowledge about the health risks associated with alcohol use, with a particular focus on cancer. Surprisingly, while 90% of respondents recognized alcohol's role in liver disease, only 53% were aware of its link to cancer in general. Awareness was even lower for specific types of alcohol-attributable cancers: only 39% of respondents knew about the link between alcohol and colon cancer, 28% for oral cancer, and a mere 15% were aware of the connection to female breast cancer.


Awareness of alcohol-related cancer risks in Europe

These findings are alarming, given that the European Union has the highest drinking levels worldwide, and cancer is the primary cause of alcohol-attributable deaths in the region. Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cancers, remain the most significant health burden globally, with alcohol use recognized as a major risk factor.


The study was conducted as part of a larger project aimed at developing evidence to support the implementation of effective health warnings on alcohol beverage labels across the EU. The survey highlighted significant variations in awareness across different countries and demographic groups. For instance, knowledge of the link between alcohol and cancer was highest in France (72%) and lowest in Latvia (26%). Women, younger adults, and those with higher education levels demonstrated greater awareness of alcohol-attributable conditions.


The researchers call for more awareness-raising and prevention efforts, emphasizing the need for cancer-specific health warnings on alcohol container labels. The study's limitations include its focus on only 14 countries and the challenges associated with achieving representativeness due to the under-reporting of alcohol intake in population-level surveys.


This study sheds light on the critical need for improved public health campaigns and policies to educate the European population about the risks of alcohol consumption, particularly its link to cancer. As alcohol consumption remains a major risk factor for NCDs, raising awareness about its cancer-causing potential could play a significant role in prevention efforts across the continent.


 

Neufeld, M., Kokole, D., Correia, D. et al. (2024). How much do Europeans know about the link between alcohol use and cancer? Results from an online survey in 14 countries. BMC Research Notes, 17(1), 56. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13104-024-06707-w


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