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The Making of Medicine

Did You Know Alcohol Ups Your Cancer Risk?

Less than half of Americans realize that drinking increases your risk of cancer, and many would support putting warning labels on alcohol like those found on cigarettes, a new survey finds.

The survey, from our Kara P. Wiseman, PhD, and collaborators, found that 65.1% of respondents supported adding warning labels to alcohol packaging. This was among 3,865 Americans surveyed by mail -- a sample large enough to be statistically representative of the U.S. population as a whole.

Further, 63.9% of respondents supported the idea of establishing drinking guidelines, while a much smaller percentage, 34.4%, backed banning outdoor alcohol advertising.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people who reported knowing about the alcohol-cancer link were more likely to support such measures than those who believed there was no risk, or believed that drinking decreased risk. There was also less support among heavy drinkers.

“It is encouraging that a majority of U.S. adults are supportive of information about the risk of alcohol being provided to consumers,” said Professor Wiseman, of the School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences and UVA Cancer Center. “An important next step in this research will be to determine what types of messages are able to best convey information about alcohol’s harms as they relate to cancer.”

Alcohol has been found to increase the risk of seven different cancers, including breast, colon and mouth cancer. As your consumption increases, so does your cancer risk.

In 2016, cancers attributed to alcohol were responsible for approximately 378,000 deaths worldwide, experts estimate.

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