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NSW Public Health Bulletin archive

Knowledge and beliefs about alcohol consumption, longer-term health risks, and the link with cancer in a sample of Australian adults Volume 24 Issue 2

Trish Cotter, Donna Perez, Sally Dunlop, James Kite, Clive Gaskin

NSW Public Health Bulletin 24(2) 81-86 Published: 7 November 2013

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About the author/s

Trish Cotter | Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre

Donna Perez | Cancer Institute NSW

Sally Dunlop | Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Cancer Institute NSW

James Kite | Cancer Institute NSW

Clive Gaskin | Cancer Institute NSW

Corresponding author

James Kite | [email protected]


Aim: This study explores knowledge and beliefs about longer-term health risks related to alcohol consumption among Australian adults. Methods: Data were drawn from the 2009 Cancer Institute NSW Lifestyle and Cancer Survey, a telephone survey of adults in NSW. Participants (n=1255) were asked about their alcohol consumption, knowledge of the Australian guidelines (revised in 2009), and personal perceptions and beliefs about longer-term health risks from alcohol consumption. Results: Seventy-eight percent of the sample drank alcohol either occasionally or weekly, with 37% of drinkers drinking above the current Australian guidelines (two standard drinks on any day). Two-thirds (67%) correctly nominated the maximum number of standard drinks per day that met the current Australian guidelines, and a similar proportion (64%) agreed that regular moderate alcohol consumption can have serious health consequences in the longer term. Knowledge of the guidelines and longer-term health consequences was lower for drinkers, especially those drinking above the guidelines. Less than half (48%) of the participants were aware that drinking alcohol could cause cancer and 51% were aware that limiting alcohol intake helps prevent cancer. Conclusion: The current Australian guidelines, the longer-term health risks and the link with cancer are not well understood, especially by those who drink frequently and above the guidelines.