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  • Lauri Beekmann

Bridging the Knowledge Gap: Dr. Lena Sharp on Alcohol and Cancer Risk

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

05.04.2023 - To address the concerning lack of awareness about the link between alcohol consumption and cancer risk, we interviewed Dr Lena Sharp. Dr Sharp is the Head of the Department at the Regional Cancer Center Stockholm Gotland, Sweden, and the Project Lead of the PrEvCan project and the "Alkohol ökar risken för cancer" project in Sweden.

As part of the "Alkohol ökar risken för cancer" project, which translates to "Alcohol increases the risk of cancer," a new survey conducted by Sifo has revealed survey reveals, among other things, that one in five Swedes is unaware of the connection between alcohol and cancer. The knowledge gap, however, becomes even more significant regarding low alcohol consumption. 9 out of 10 Swedes are unaware that even small amounts of alcohol increase cancer risk. This includes those who responded that alcohol increases the risk of cancer. Significantly more, 7 out of 10 Swedes agree that high alcohol consumption can increase cancer risk.

Dr Sharp, who initiated the awareness campaign, emphasizes that everyone has the right to know about the risks associated with alcohol consumption. The initiative is backed by various organizations in Sweden, with efforts to raise awareness through a knowledge website and informational materials. These efforts are part of the European-wide campaign "Cancer Prevention Across Europe," which focuses on the European Code Against Cancer.

The survey commissioned by the Regional Cancer Centers found that 4 out of 10 Swedes would change their alcohol habits if they knew it increased cancer risk. There are no safe amounts of alcohol consumption, as the cancer risk increases with higher consumption. Alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer: breast, mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, colorectal, and liver cancer. It is also a significant risk factor for breast cancer-related deaths among women.

The PrEvCan campaign, led by the European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS) and supported by the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) and over 60 other organizations, was launched in September 2022 during the ESMO Congress in Paris. The campaign is based on the European Code Against Cancer (ECAC), which sets out 12 recommendations to prevent cancer, ranging from physical activity and dietary guidelines to tobacco use and second-hand smoke.

Over 12 months, starting from October 2022, the PrEvCan campaign dedicates each month to promoting one of these recommendations, highlighting the scientific evidence supporting it. The campaign aims to increase public awareness of cancer prevention and provide healthcare professionals with a comprehensive toolkit for effectively communicating the importance of cancer prevention.

To learn more about the link between alcohol and cancer, Dr Sharp's projects, and the ongoing PrEvCan campaign, watch the video interview conducted by Lauri Beekmann.

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