Do Beliefs about Alcohol and Cancer Risk Vary by Alcoholic Beverage Type and Heart Disease Risk Beliefs?

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2023 Jan 9;32(1):46-53. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-22-0420.


Background: Alcohol is a leading risk factor for cancer, yet awareness of the alcohol-cancer link is low. Awareness may be influenced by perceptions of potential health benefits of alcohol consumption or certain alcoholic beverage types. The purpose of this study was to estimate awareness of the alcohol-cancer link by beverage type and to examine the relationship between this awareness and concomitant beliefs about alcohol and heart disease risk.

Methods: We analyzed data from the 2020 Health Information National Trends Survey 5 Cycle 4, a nationally representative survey of U.S. adults.

Results: Awareness of the alcohol-cancer link was highest for liquor (31.2%), followed by beer (24.9%) and wine (20.3%). More U.S. adults believed wine (10.3%) decreased cancer risk, compared with beer (2.2%) and liquor (1.7%). Most U.S. adults (>50%) reported not knowing how these beverages affected cancer risk. U.S. adults believing alcoholic beverages increased heart disease risk had higher adjusted predicted probabilities of being aware of the alcohol-cancer link (wine: 58.6%; beer: 52.4%; liquor: 59.4%) compared with those unsure (wine: 6.0%; beer: 8.6%; liquor: 13.2%), or believing alcoholic beverages reduced (wine: 16.2%; beer: 21.6%; liquor: 23.8%) or had no effect on heart disease risk (wine: 10.2%; beer: 12.0%; liquor: 16.9%).

Conclusions: Awareness of the alcohol-cancer link was low, varied by beverage type, and was higher among those recognizing that alcohol use increased heart disease risk.

Impact: These findings underscore the need to educate U.S. adults about the alcohol-cancer link, including raising awareness that drinking all alcoholic beverage types increases cancer risk. See related commentary by Hay et al., p. 9.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcoholic Beverages / adverse effects
  • Beer / adverse effects
  • Heart Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Heart Diseases* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Wine* / adverse effects