9 in 10 Brits are not aware that red wine increases cancer risk

Nearly nine in ten Brits (87%) are not aware that drinking red wine increases the risk of cancer, a poll for World Cancer Research Fund has found.

9 February 2017

Nearly nine in ten Brits (87%) are not aware that drinking red wine increases the risk of cancer, a poll for World Cancer Research Fund has found.1 The YouGov results have been released for Cancer Prevention Month (1-29 February).

The findings also revealed that nearly three quarters of people (73%) are aware of the link between inherited genes and cancer even though it accounts for less than one in ten cases. Nearly half of people (47%) wrongly thought that stress was directly linked to an increased cancer risk despite evidence discounting this myth.

Our research shows that not drinking alcohol is one of the most important things people can do to reduce their cancer risk, alongside not smoking and being a healthy weight. The latest evidence suggests that the claimed benefits of drinking red wine for heart health are less than previously thought and are outweighed by the harmful effect alcohol has on cancer risk.

The results from the survey showed that many people are still not clear on what increases their risk of cancer. For Cancer Prevention Month, World Cancer Research Fund has an online awareness campaign on whether factors such as cling film, stress and red wine increase cancer risk. This information is to help clarify and give the UK public a better understanding of what factors increase their risk, and what they can do to reduce their risk.

Nearly 9 in 10 Brits are not aware that drinking red wine increases cancer risk


World Cancer Research Fund are the cancer prevention experts were the first organisation to identify that diet, weight and physical activity can affect people’s risk of cancer. In fact, a third of the most common cancer cases could be prevented every year in the UK through improved physical activity, diet and weight.2

Dr Rachel Thompson, Head of Research Interpretation at World Cancer Research Fund, said:

Cancer is a devastating disease and we are working for a world free of preventable cancers. People are aware of some risk factors, such as inherited genes, but not some of the modifiable lifestyle factors that can really make a difference. With so many people being diagnosed with cancer, we want people to know what factors are increasing their risk, such as red wine, so that they can make informed choices to help reduce their risk.

Sarah Toule, Head of Health Information at World Cancer Research Fund, said:

It is very worrying, but not surprising, that so few people know that red wine increases cancer risk when there are so many contradictory messages out there. All types of alcohol increase the risk of a number of different cancers so we recommend for cancer prevention that people don’t drink any alcohol. In fact, around 21,000 cancer cases could be prevented in the UK every year if no one drank alcohol. We know that it can be hard for people to not drink at all so we’d encourage them to be ‘alcohol savvy’ if they do. For example, add a low-calorie mixer to your alcohol and, in between each alcoholic drink, have a glass of water. It’s also really important to not binge-drink and to spread your weekly limit of seven drinks over a number of days as well as keeping a few days alcohol-free.

Awareness of the relation between red wine and cancer risk across the UK

When comparing England, Scotland and Wales, the poll showed that Welsh adults are by far the least aware that consuming red wine (5% aware) increases the risk of developing cancer. Regionally, people in the East of England and the North West are the least aware of the link between drinking red and the risk of cancer (both 9%). Out of all age groups 18 to 24 year olds are the most aware (27%) while those most at risk of cancer, the over 55s’, are the least aware (6%).


Notes to editors

For more information contact: Melanie Purnode, Press and PR Manager, WCRF on 020 343 4273/ 07879 483 022 or m.purnode@wcrf.org

About World Cancer Research Fund

For over 25 years, World Cancer Research Fund has been the UK’s leading charity dedicated to the prevention of cancer through diet, weight and physical activity. By funding and supporting research, developing policy recommendations and providing health information, we have ensured that people can make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their risk of developing a preventable cancer. As we look forward to our next 25 years, our scientific research ensures that we will continue to have the latest and most authoritative information at our fingertips, all underpinned by independent expert advice.

For more information visit www.wcrf-uk.org/about-us, follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wcrf_uk, read our blog or visit our Facebook page.

1 YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2023 adults. Undertaken between 20 – 23 January 2017. The survey was carried out online. Figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Available from World Cancer Research Fund

2 World Cancer Research Fund, Cancer Prevention & Survival, July 2016, http://www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/CUP-Summary-Report.pdf#page=5