9 in 10 of us not aware that red wine increases cancer risk

09 February 2017 | Healthy living

As World Cancer Research Fund's former Head of Health Information, Sarah ensures that our cancer prevention knowledge is translated into clear and engaging information for the public.

A YouGov survey conducted by World Cancer Research Fund to mark Cancer Prevention Month has shown nearly nine in ten of us (87 per cent to be exact) are not aware that drinking red wine increases the risk of cancer.

All types of alcohol increase your risk

It’s really worrying – but not exactly surprising – that so few people know that red wine increases cancer risk when there are so many contradictory messages out there.

Our research shows that all types of alcohol increase the risk of cancer. In fact, 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.

To put it another way, around 21,000 UK cancer cases could be prevented every year if no one drank alcohol.

Hang on! Isn’t red wine healthy?

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.

For cancer prevention, we recommend that people don’t drink any alcohol. However, we know that it can be hard to not drink at all so we’d encourage being ‘alcohol savvy’ if you do decide to drink – for example, try adding a low-calorie mixer to your alcohol or having a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink.

It's also really important not to binge-drink – spread your weekly limit of seven drinks over a number of days as well as keeping a few days alcohol-free.

Too many people still don’t know

The results from our survey showed that many people are still not clear about what increases the risk of cancer.

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.

It was also interesting to find that nearly half of people (47%) wrongly thought that stress was directly linked to an increased cancer risk despite evidence discounting this theory.

New online awareness campaign

For Cancer Prevention Month, we’ve launched a new online awareness campaign to help clear up the confusion about what does and doesn’t increase cancer risk.

Our information now covers more topics than ever before – including red wine and stress, as well as others such as breast implants and cling film – and explains whether there is evidence to suggest that they contribute to an increased risk of cancer.

Take a look – the findings might surprise you!

Do you know which lifestyle factors are increasing your risk of cancer? Our updated information will help you separate the myths from the reality.

Sarah Toule | 09 February 2017