Alcohol industry accused of misleading public over cancer risk

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Alcohol industry accused of misleading public over cancer risk

Drinks companies are implying that there is no concrete evidence that alcohol can cause cancer and are confusing consumers by presenting the relationship between the two as highly complex, scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Sweden's Karolinska Institutet found.

The alcohol industry uses denial, distortion and distraction to mislead people about the risks of developing cancer from drinking, often employing similar tactics to those of the tobacco industry, a study said. Breast and colorectal cancers were one of the most misrepresented and faulty information areas in most of these websites. It was noted that 21 of the web sites did not warn about breast cancer.

There is a mature debate to be had on the benefits and harm from alcohol consumption, but that debate is not served by reporting as fact and without question the views of the modern-day successors to Victorian pamphleteers railing outside ale houses at the evils of the "demon drink".

"Others include denying that any relationship exists or claiming inaccurately that there is no risk for light or "moderate" drinking, as well discussing a wide range of real and potential risk factors, thus presenting alcohol as just one risk among many".

Since 2007, more than 100 studies have revealed that even the average amount of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer.

They suggested major global alcohol companies may be misleading shareholders about the risks of their products, potentially leaving the industry open to litigation in some countries.

The alcohol industry is misleading consumers with distorted and distracting health messages that downplay any related risk of cancer, researchers claim.

The professor said tactics practiced by "responsible drinking bodies" were comparable to those employed by the tobacco industry for decades, while advising drinkers to turn to the NHS for information.

The study accused alcohol industry groups of selective omission of information. The risks associated with cancer are not the biggest risks when it comes to drinking, the bigger risks are to do with violence, drink-driving and liver cirrhosis. The website also leaves people in no doubt as to the links that do exist between alcohol and cancer. It is estimated that 4 percent of the new cancers in United Kingdom each year are linked to alcohol consumption.

Mark Petticrew, Professor of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said: 'The weight of scientific evidence is clear - drinking alcohol increases the risk of some of the most common forms of cancer, including several common cancers.

Study authors say that this information should start release of accurate information for greater public awareness. They say the next step would be look at other industry websites, documents as well as their other social media promotions to check for misinformation. They are concerned it may extend to other health information like cardiovascular disease.

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