Alcohol Use and Breast Cancer Risk

There is strong evidence to suggest there is a link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer, with there being a 5%–9% increased risk per 10g ethanol per day. Despite the clear associations between alcohol consumption and breast cancer, public awareness of this issue is low.

A recent study has used qualitative methods to explore 16 women's views concerning cancer risk and alcohol consumption, and the gaps in knowledge around these topics.

On analysis of the data collected from three focus groups, results found that:

  • Despite most women agreeing they had responsibility for their health, few of the women without (or prior to) experience of breast symptoms independently sought information about modifiable risk factors.
  • Although the women acknowledged the harms of alcohol, few discussed alcohol in association with breast cancer risk specifically.
  • The women believed information regarding alcohol was better directed towards young people before it was “too late… and the damage has been done”
  • Participants typically described problematic drinking as equal to dependent or “alcoholic” drinking and characterised by severe harm, creating an “othering” effect when they contrasted it with their “normal” drinking.
  • In general, there was a lack of clarity about what was the recommended guidelines and mixed messages about risk factors.

The study was conducted to investigate women's perspectives of the association breast cancer risk and alcohol consumption. Overall the results highlight a lack of motivation to seek information about modifiable risk factors. They found the women were unclear about guidelines and detached themselves from groups they believed were better suited to receiving the information. Challenges in communicating information about alcohol as will need to be considered when developing an alcohol‐focused intervention for women attending breast clinics.

Chambers, Sophia E., Ellen R. Copson, Peter F. Dutey‐Magni, Caspian Priest, Annie S. Anderson, and Julia MA Sinclair. "Alcohol use and breast cancer risk: A qualitative study of women’s perspectives to inform the development of a preventative intervention in breast clinics." European journal of cancer care (2019): e13075.
Publication Date
United Kingdom