Only 1 in 2 over-55s aware alcohol increases cancer risk

Leading cancer prevention and survival charity highlights low awareness of the links between alcohol and cancer in new poll.

24 Aug 2022

Only one in two UK adults over the age of 55 are aware that drinking alcohol increases their risk of cancer (55%), according to a new online poll commissioned by World Cancer Research Fund. With the risk of cancer increasing as people age, the charity is highlighting that ‘those most at risk are among the least aware’.

A higher number of younger (25–34 year old) people know alcohol is a cancer risk factor (67%) as opposed to 55% of those aged 55+. In order to reduce your cancer risk, World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting the amount you drink or not drinking alcohol at all. The findings are part of a regular survey commissioned by the cancer prevention and survival charity to raise awareness of cancer prevention.

Other findings highlighted that 13% of respondents incorrectly think drinking coffee causes cancer, while 51% think stress is responsible. There is no evidence that stress increases a person’s likelihood of getting cancer.

Around 40% of cancer cases are preventable, which equates to approximately 147,000 cases a year in the UK1. After not smoking, eating a healthy diet, being a healthy weight and being physically active are the most important ways to reduce your risk of getting cancer. In fact, overweight or obesity increases the risk of at least 12 different types of cancer2.

Of the more than 2,000 adults polled, 71% of men thought that inheriting cancer from a blood relative, such as a parent or grandparent, increases your risk as opposed to 78% of women. While it is correct that genes are a risk factor, fewer than one in 10 cancer cases are due to inherited genes3; although some cancers have a stronger genetic link than others.

Tips for reducing alcohol intake

To help raise awareness of the link between drinking alcohol and cancer risk, the charity is offering 10 top tips for reducing your alcohol intake. These include opting for the smallest serving size, alternating every other alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink such as water or an unsweetened drink, or diluting alcoholic drinks with a low-calorie mixer to help them last longer.

Rachael Gormley, Chief Executive of World Cancer Research Fund, said:

These new findings are really striking and go to show we still have a way to go before people are fully aware of the causes of cancer, and the steps we can all take to prevent it. As we all enjoy the summer season, why not give our tips for cutting back on alcohol a try?



1 World Health Organization (WHO), Cancer Prevention, accessed 24/02/2020

2 WCRF’s research shows that overweight and obesity increase the risk of:

  • mouth, pharynx and larynx cancers
  • oesophageal cancer
  • stomach cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • gallbladder cancer
  • liver cancer
  • bowel cancer
  • breast cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • womb cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • kidney cancer

3 National Cancer Institute: The Genetics of Cancer

About the poll

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size for the 2022 results was 2,017 adults and fieldwork was undertaken between 8–9 June 2022.

The surveys were carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) is part of a network of charities based in the UK, EU and US.

For a copy of the poll and media enquiries contact Diana Mackie, Head of Communications at WCRF at / 07879 483022

About World Cancer Research Fund

World Cancer Research Fund examines how diet, weight and physical activity affect your risk of developing and surviving cancer. As part of an international network of charities, we have been funding life-saving research, influencing global public health policy and educating the public since 1982. While society continues searching for a cure, our prevention and survival work is helping people live longer, happier and healthier lives – free from the devastating effects of cancer.