A new Sifo survey shows that most people in Sweden do not know that alcohol causes cancer. It also shows that many people would change their alcohol use if they knew about the carcinogenicty of beer, wine, and liquor.
Of the approximately 4,500 people from all over Sweden who were interviewed, one in five answered that they did not know that alcohol could increase the risk of cancer at all.
Four out of ten say they would reduce or quit alcohol use completely if they knew the cancer risks.
The survey was carried out by Sifo and commissioned by a consortium of organizations in Sweden that have come together for a new campaign to increase public recognition of the link between alcohol and cancer.
The survey also revealed that nine out of ten people say they do not know that even small amounts of alcohol increase the risk of cancer.
There are seven different types of cancer that are linked to alcohol consumption – breast cancer, cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon and rectum, and liver cancer. Already in 1998, alcohol was classified as a carcinogenic substance by the IARC, which is the WHO’s cancer research body.
In addition to these, there are further forms of cancer that are possibly affected by alcohol, for example pancreatic cancer.
The research is clear. There is no safe amount of alcohol. Even a low level alcohol use increases the risk of developing cancer,” says Lena Sharp from the Regional Cancer Center (RCC) Stockholm Gotland, according to TV4.
We know that more is worse than less, just as it is for smoking.
Most people know that smoking and the sun can lead to cancer, but there is less knowledge about the importance of alcohol.
We think people have a right to know.Lena Sharp, Regional Cancer Center (RCC) Stockholm Gotland
A ground-breaking initiative to increase public recognition about the link between alcohol and cancer
Clearly, more can and should be done to increase the knowledge and public recognition of the link between and alcohol and cancer. A broad, new initiative has now been launched by RCC to promote greater awareness, both among the public as well as among cancer prevention and treatment providers in the healthcare system.
18 organisations, authorities, and companies support the ground-breaking campaign. In addition to Movendi International member organization IOGT-NTO, there are also two other non-profit organizations with a focus on alcohol prevention, Sweden’s National Council for Alcohol and Narcotics Issues, SLAN, and the Central Association for Alcohol and Narcotics Information, CAN. Several other organizations with a focus on cancer are involved, such as the Regional Cancer Centers (RCC), the Cancer Foundation, the Breast Cancer Association, the Cancer Network and the Mouth and Throat Cancer Association. And additional supporters are organizations that organize healthcare personnel, such as the Swedish Association for General Medicine, the National Association of Dietitians, the Swedish Medical Association, the Swedish Nurses Association, and the Nurses in Cancer Care. Other partners are the Addiction Center Stockholm, Systembolaget, the government’s alcohol retail monopoly, and the consulting company Beteendelabbet.
The campaign has a website with information, alkoholochcancer.se. Under the heading “Get support” there is a link to a short training course on cancer prevention. The training consists of short information films about the various lifestyle habits that affect the risk of cancer, including alcohol. The training is primarily intended for healthcare professionals, but others can also participate.
Movendi International contributed to the development of the new initiative with a strategic workshop, based on the expertise in translating evidence into awareness and action; and based on the experience with developing the trailblazing Be Loud For Change campaign – an initiative to engage people and communities in preventing cancer due to alcohol.
The ethanol in beer, wine, and liquor is a serious cancer risk. It’s in the same category as asbestos and tobacco and alcohol companies are doing all they can to keep people in the dark about the fact that their products cause cancer,” says Kristina Sperkova, International President of Movendi International.
That’s why we were glad to support the development of the new Swedish campaign and we are even more excited to see this broad partnership coming together to bring change.
People, cancer patients, healthcare professionals, and our politicians all need to know that alcohol causes cancer so that they can take action to better prevent cancer, provide better treatment and care, and build healthier environments and communities for all.”Kristina Sperkova, International President, Movendi International
Last year, the Regional Cancer Center (RCC) was tasked with providing the public with research-based information based on the European code against cancer, together with relevant actors. The assignment is part of the Swedish government’s agreement with the country’s municipalities and regions, SKR, to support the work to develop cancer care and prevent cancer.
The government’s ANDTS strategy from 2022 notes that alcohol is a significant risk factor for cancer, and that there were therefore good reasons to prevent cancer cases caused by alcohol, and that it was necessary to increase knowledge about the relationship between alcohol and cancer.