Four out of five women do not realize that drinking alcohol can, according to research, increase their risk of breast cancer.
A majority of women interviewed in a chest clinic were unaware of the link and many employees were also in the dark about it.
Experts have warned that the danger of alcohol needs to be better understood because it can cause as many as one in 10 cases of the most common cancer in the UK.
And although only 20 percent of women knew that alcohol was a risk factor for cancer, about two-thirds admitted to drinking regularly.
Both patients and staff agreed that the issue should be discussed more, but both groups said they were concerned about blaming & # 39; of patients to drink or patronize & # 39 ;.
In a survey of 238 people in a breast care salon in England, only about 20 percent of women knew that alcohol could increase the risk of breast cancer (stock image)
Researchers from the University of Southampton interviewed 238 people who were involved in the breast cancer diagnosis process.
They include 103 women who go to breast clinics to talk about symptoms, 102 women who go for screening and 33 NHS employees in a breastfeeding center.
About 16 percent of the screening group and 23 percent of the clinic group knew that alcohol was a risk factor for cancer.
And only 52 percent of the clinical staff could identify the link between the two.
It is even said that between five and 11 percent of all breast cancer cases are blamed for alcohol, the researchers warned.
Approximately 55,000 cases of the disease are diagnosed in the UK each year, making up about 15 percent of all cancer diagnoses. In the US the figure is around 270,000.
HOW DOES ALCOHOL BREAST CANCER?
Alcohol can cause breast cancer because one of the effects on the body causes it to produce more of the hormone estrogen.
Estrogen, better known as the female sex hormone, is also a fuel for breast cancer tumors and causes them to grow faster.
Alcohol also damages DNA because it is broken down into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which is toxic and is found in tobacco smoke.
This DNA damage increases the risk that cells become corrupted and reproduce uncontrollably to build a tumor – increasing the chance of developing an already common cancer.
Research has also shown that alcohol can help spread cancer that has already begun – known as metastasis – by stimulating the movement of cells in the body.
And alcohol also blocks the absorption of folate by the body, a type of vitamin that is vital for the production of DNA and that reduces the risk of breast cancer.
Cancer Research UK says that if 1,000 women drink between three and six units per day (one or two large glasses of wine), there are probably 27 additional cases of cancer than in a total abstainer.
Alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer by increasing the hormone levels that accelerate tumors or by releasing DNA-damaging chemicals.
Doing more to warn people about the link between alcohol and cancer can prevent cancer and save lives, the researchers, led by Professor Julia Sinclair, said.
They said: & # 39; More than 20 percent of women aged 45 to 64 would reportedly drink more than 14 units per week.
& # 39; So any intervention to reduce (alcohol) consumption can have a significant impact on breast cancer rates, but also help to control side effects of treatment and improve overall health of survivors. & # 39;
People in the survey were open to the idea of having information sessions when they went for screening or meetings with nurses or doctors.
But both patients and staff were concerned about the fact that they were offended by blaming people for drinking, which harmed their health.
Patients also feel patronized, they warned, when they are told how to take care of themselves.
In their study, the researchers wrote: & # 39; Both the staff and attendees at the clinic showed (mixed feelings) about discussing alcohol, concerned that it is considered stigmatizing or blaming women & # 39 ;.
And they added: & # 39; In addition to the time, the use of additional resources and the possible reason for fear, the personnel group also mentioned contributions to the "worried pit" culture, time inefficiencies and the fear of accusing it as " "or" patronizing "is considered potential disadvantages & # 39 ;.
Eluned Hughes, Public Health Specialist at Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now, said many women are unaware that drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.
She said: & # 39; The risk of breast cancer is influenced by a combination of our genes, lifestyle choices and life-long events, and there is never a single cause of the disease. But with many contributing factors, it is vital that we support more women in doing what they can to shift the odds to their advantage.
& # 39; We must find ways to help people drink less without blaming or condemning anyone.
& # 39; It is encouraging that this study suggests that the Breast Screening Program could provide a new opportunity for women and healthcare professionals to discuss potential risk mitigation steps. & # 39;
Of a group of 1,000 women who drink more than six units of alcohol per day (equivalent to two large glasses of wine), the number of breast cancer cases is expected to be about 60 percent higher, says Cancer Research UK
Almost a third of the women said they would be more likely to attend a screening appointment if they knew they would be advised on how to avoid cancer.
The research also showed that less than a third of people (30 percent) realized that the fat increased the risk of breast cancer and that only half of them correctly identified smoking tobacco as a risk factor.
The research was published in the BMJ Open journal.
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