According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer. For every 10g (around one drink) of alcohol an adult woman consumes on a daily basis, there is a 7-10% increase in the risk of breast cancer. Despite mounting evidence supporting the link between alcohol and breast cancer, among other health conditions, the percentage of women who regularly consume alcohol in most developed countries is still high.
A new study by Australian researchers published in PLOS ONE investigates the drinking behavior and the perception of alcohol as a risk factor for breast cancer in middle-aged women. The researchers chose to focus on this age group in particular because it reports the highest level of alcohol consumption and a high incidence of breast cancer (compared with all other age groups).
As part of the study, 35 women from South Australia, aged 45-64 years, that spoke English, and had never been diagnosed with breast cancer were interviewed. The interviews were designed to gather information on three topics:
- The participants’ knowledge about alcohol as a risk factor for breast cancer
- Their views and reasons regarding their own alcohol consumption
- Their recommendations for how health organizations and government can reduce alcohol consumption
The results of the study indicated that most women were unaware of the fact that alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer. However, the majority believed that alcohol was detrimental to health in general and thus saw the association between alcohol and breast cancer as “logical”.
Middle-aged women underestimate risk factors associated with breast cancer
Despite this receptive outlook, some women expressed skepticism towards the association and demanded to know the data and statistics supporting it before considering altering their habits. The association between breast cancer and alcohol seemed to contradict their experience as they knew women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer who drank very little or no alcohol at all.
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