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Just one in five women at risk of breast cancer know alcohol increases the danger

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 18/06/2019 Laura Donnelly

© Getty Just one in five women attending breast cancer clinics are aware alcohol increases the risk of disease - and half of staff have no idea.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with 54,000 diagnoses and 11,000 deaths annually.

Scientists estimate that alcohol consumption causes around one in ten cases of the disease.

But a study by the University of Southampton found that women at breast screening clinics, and at appointments for those with symptoms of disease, were largely unaware of the links.

And just half of staff working in such settings knew about the connection, the study found.

The study, published in BMJ Online, involved 102 women undergoing mammograms, 103 at clinics because of symptoms and 33 clinical staff.

Doctor or psychiatrist consulting and diagnostic examining stressful woman patient on obstetric - gynecological female illness, or mental health in medical clinic or hospital healthcare service center © Getty Doctor or psychiatrist consulting and diagnostic examining stressful woman patient on obstetric - gynecological female illness, or mental health in medical clinic or hospital healthcare service center Just 16 per cent of those in the screening group and 23 per cent in clinic group knew alcohol is a risk factor. And only 52 per cent of staff knew alcohol was a risk.

Researchers said advising women about the risks when they attended sessions could be a “teachable moment” when they were more likely to listen to health messages about the dangers of alcohol.

Thirty per cent of women said they would be more likely to attend screening if it included information on how to cut their risks of cancer.

But most staff felt it would make no difference to attendance, with four in five listing disadvantages to such an approach, with fears that patients would feel “blamed” for developing the disease.

Study author Professor Julia Sinclair, of Southampton University, said: "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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