Alcohol Use Disorders (62) Q3. What is the role of the alcohol industry? (1) Alcohol and breast cancer

18 February, 2024

Thank you for your contributions so far to the discussion. We now enter our third week and I invite you to consider Q3: What is the role of the alcohol industry? What can be done to address misinformation from the alcohol industry?

Here is an example. Please do share any examples you know about:

How Industry-Sponsored Messaging About Alcohol Manufactures Doubt

Posted on December 24, 2021

From this website we learn that the misinformation effects are greatest in relation to the links between alcohol and breast cancer... The overall effect of industry misinformation is large, increasing the odds of an inaccurate perception of the risk by around 60%.

Fact: Alcohol is a Group 1 Carcinogen. It increases the risk of breast cancer.

Alcohol industry supported message: “It’s important to put the risks from drinking alcohol into context. There are many other factors that increase the risk of developing breast cancer, some of which we can’t control, like:

– Age: you’re more likely to develop it as you get older

– A family history of breast cancer

– Being tall

– A previous benign breast lump

However, in addition to alcohol, other lifestyle factors such as being overweight and smoking are thought to increase your risk of developing breast cancer.”

Fact: The Chief Medical Officers advise: Alcohol can cause cancer, including breast and colon cancers

Alcohol industry supported message: “Some studies show a link between alcohol and breast cancer among both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women. However, no causal relationship has been shown between moderate drinking and breast cancer.”

In both examples, we see how the alcohol industry aims to downplay the role of alcohol in breast cancer. In the first example, it emphasises other risk factors in order to make alcohol seem unimportant; in the second it makes what sound like a scientific and compelling statement "no causal relationship has been shown between moderate drinking and breast cancer”. This is highly misleading and is very similar to the tactics of the tobacco industry in relation to lung cancer.

I look forward to hear of other examples where the alcohol industry has misled the general public, health workers or policymakers.

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: