Many Americans don’t consider their drinking habits a major risk factor for cancer. But consumer groups and public health agencies are calling for federal regulators to add warning labels to alcoholic drinks indicating the connection. Alcohol manufacturers are pushing back, CBS News reports.
Backing the groups’ plea is the Surgeon General’s 2016 report showing that even one drink per day may increase the risk for breast cancer. The report also cites research showing that roughly 90,000 Americans suffer from cancers associated with alcohol consumption every year.
The proposed labels would read: “Government Warning: According to the Surgeon General, consumption of alcoholic beverages can cause cancer, including breast and colon cancers.”
The push for awareness comes after studies earlier this year revealed that less than half of American adults were aware that drinking alcohol can increase the risk for cancer. In response, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), the American Institute for Cancer Research, the American Public Health Association and more than a dozen other advocacy groups sent a letter to the Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau urging for new labels warning of the risks.
“The disconnect between alcohol’s impact on cancer and the awareness of that impact should raise alarm bells,” said Thomas Gremillion, director of food policy at CFA. “The industry has succeeded in putting a health halo around alcohol. The government has the responsibility to give consumers the scientific information they need to make informed decisions about alcohol, just as it does with tobacco.”
Some in the beverage industry are pushing back against the call to action, citing some studies that suggest moderate drinking (one to two drinks a day) might have health benefits, such as lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disputes those claims, saying it’s impossible to conclusively link alcohol consumption to improved health outcomes.
Such alcohol warnings can be effective, studies show—for example, Australia saw a decrease in alcohol consumption after the government in 2009 advised consumers to reduce drinking.
Interestingly, alcohol consumption in the United States fell by 1.6% in 2018 compared with 2017. Many attribute the decline to the rising popularity of wellness trends, which encourage people to cut back on alcohol.
To learn more about the links between cancer and alcohol, click here.