Women are not quite aware of the link to breast cancer with alcohol

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Women know too little about the role of alcohol in increasing the risk of breast cancer, a study suggests.

Only one in five women attending a breast cancer clinic knew it was a risk factor.

It is estimated that alcohol consumption is responsible for 5-11% of cases.

Cancer Research UK said that reducing alcohol is one of the best things that women could do to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Two hundred women took part in the study, published in the BMJ Open online magazine. They were screened for breast cancer or subjected to symptoms.

They completed questionnaires on lifestyle risk factors. Just under a third knew it was an increased risk of breast cancer and half knew that smoking was another risk factor. But only 16% of women in the screening group and 23% in the symptoms group knew that alcohol is a risk factor.

More than half of those who drank alcohol (88 out of 152) thought they knew how to estimate the alcohol content of drinks, but less than three quarters correctly calculated the alcohol content of a normal glass of wine, and just over half correctly estimated quantity in a pint of beer.


The numbers that matter

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK
  • There are more than 54,000 new cases diagnosed and 11,000 deaths each year
  • Eight out of 100 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime
  • Drinking two units of alcohol per day increases the risk of 11 out of 100

About half a million women are visited at clinics to check potential breast cancer symptoms in the UK each year.

Professor Julia Sinclair, who directed the study, said it was an opportunity to give them information that could help reduce their chances of developing the disease.

"94% of them do not have breast cancer, if they have a family history, they would be referenced for monitoring.

"But if you are overweight or drink more than you should be, people don't say" c & # 39; it's something you could do about it. "

"Alcohol increases the risk of three by 100 so it's a low absolute risk, but it's something that is editable,

"It's about empowering women to have the knowledge so they can make decisions."

Days without alcohol

Professor Sinclair said that women who received everything clear from the clinics would generally be happy to receive information on alcohol risk, as long as they were not "charged" with drinking.

Cancer Research UK recommends increasing the risk of breast cancer with each additional unit of alcohol per day.

"It is worrying that most women in this study do not know that alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer, since reducing alcohol is one of the best ways in which people can reduce their risks," declared Emma Shields, head of health information.

"You don't have to give up alcohol completely: having smaller portions and days without alcohol can make a big difference."

He added: "Using appointments for breast screening as a time to talk to women about their risk of drinking and cancer is an interesting idea, but more research is needed to see how people would react and if it would actually help reduce the risk of cancer. "


How many units of alcohol are in the drinks?

  • Single shot of spirit (25ml): 1 unit
  • Standard wine glass (175 ml): 2.1 units
  • Large glass of wine (250 ml): 3 units
  • Pint of beer at 4% resistance: 2.3 units
  • 5% resistance beer pint: 2.8 units
  • Pint of strong cider (8%): ​​4.5 units

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