MILLIONS of women are at risk of breast cancer – as one in five don’t realise booze can be to blame, new research shows. Experts say alcoh
MILLIONS of women are at risk of breast cancer – as one in five don’t realise booze can be to blame, new research shows.
Experts say alcohol is responsible for between five and 11 per cent of cases, with the risk increasing with the amount consumed.
But according to the research, published in the online journal BMJ Open, many women are unaware booze could raise the likelihood of developing tumours.
Half of those asked recognised smoking as a risk factor, while one in three knew that obesity could increase the threat.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with more than 54,000 new cases diagnosed and 11,000 deaths every year.
Lifestyle factors account for nearly a quarter of all cases, with alcohol consumption and obesity topping the list.
Breast cancer briefings
The team, from the University of Southampton, wanted to find out if women and staff using breast care services would find briefings on the health risks associated with alcohol acceptable.
They particularly wanted to know about prevailing levels of awareness of alcohol’s role in breast cancer risk and whether women were able to correctly identify alcohol units in drinks.
The researchers drew on questionnaire and verbal feedback from 102 women attending for breast screening, 103 attending breast clinics because of symptoms, and 33 clinical staff at one UK NHS breast care centre.
Only around one in six in the screening group, and around one in four in the breast clinic group knew that alcohol is a risk factor.
Between 60 per cent and 73 per cent of the women said they drank alcohol.
What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?
Breast cancer often causes changes in the breast, including an alteration in the shape or size in both or one of your breasts.
Sometimes there may be a lump which feels thicker or harder than the rest of the tissue.
The skin on your breast may change, causing puckering or dimpling, that can resemble orange peel.
A rash may appear or your skin may seem redder, especially around the nipple.
Your nipple may also change shape, and appear stretched, and liquid may leak from the nipples, even without being squeezed.
The nipples may also become sunken or inverted.
You may experience pain in your breast – or armpit – and there may be a swelling around your collarbone or armpit.
Some changes that occur may not be a sign of cancer but normal changes or a benign lump.
Awareness of its role in upping breast cancer risk was significantly more likely among the breast clinic women than it was among those coming for screening.
Only just over half of those who said they drank alcohol thought they knew how to estimate the alcohol content of drink.
Although less than three quarters correctly estimated the alcohol content of a standard glass of wine, and just over half the amount in a pint of beer.
Asked how they felt about a five-minute cancer prevention information session at either screening or breast clinic appointments, nearly a third of all the women said it would make them more likely to attend while more than two thirds said it would make no difference.
MORE ON BREAST CANCER
The preferred option was for a trained nurse to give them this information, but they voiced some concerns about feeling stigmatised and “blamed” for drinking.
Clinical staff had better levels of awareness of breast cancer risk factors than patients, but they also had gaps in their knowledge.
The authors wrote: “Over 20 per cent of women aged 45 to 64 reportedly drink more than 14 units per week, so any intervention to reduce population level consumption could have a significant influence on breast cancer rates, as well as help to manage the side effects of treatment and improve the overall health of survivors.”
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