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The alcohol industry confuses the public about cancer risk

One study compares it to tobacco companies by denying and distorting that proven link

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The alcohol industry confuses the public about cancer risk

The scientific evidence is clear: alcohol is a factor that increases chances of suffering a cancer, essentially in digestive system, but also in breasts. Despite this, re is a worrying ignorance among population of this risk associated with alcoholic beverages. And it is at this point that industry is playing a criticizing role, according to a study, which denounces that with "denial, distortion and distraction" are trying to confuse citizens, hiding that drinking alcohol implies an increased risk of tumor diseases even at moderate levels of consumption.

"The industry is spreading misinformation about alcohol and risk of cancer," said study.

"The global alcohol industry is currently actively disseminating misinformation about alcohol and cancer risk," said study, which scientists from such prestigious institutions as Karolinska Institute and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine sign. Researchers have found a very clear pattern of stratagems that are repeated in industry argu- ments across globe to manipulate public opinion.

To begin with, in most cases, y simply deny or omit completely relationship between alcohol and tumor diseases, or ensuring that re is no risk with moderate consumption. "Scientific evidence suggests that such statements are misleading," argues study, "because increased risk of some common cancers, such as breast, esophageal, laryngeal, mouth and throat cancer and upper aerodigestive tract cancer , begins with low levels of consumption, although it is low in those levels ".

Policy makers must consider wher it is ethical or acceptable to allow alcohol industry to mislead public about health in this way, "argues Petticrew

At same time, industry, through its websites, reports, lobbies and associations to promote responsible consumption, "distort" scientific knowledge by attributing only risk to abusive consumption; stating that evidence is weak; or even defending it can protect against cancer. Finally, it "distracts" by pointing out or factors that also influence tumors, diluting risk of alcohol. In Spain, 15% of tumors diagnosed to men are related to alcohol, compared to 10% of European average. After analyzing 26 portals and reports from around world (also Europe), this pioneering study found important omissions or misrepresentations in 24 of m. Especially with regard to colon and breast cancer, being most common and damaging sales in coveted market of women, according to authors.

Most troubling is that in many countries (as in Spain) "alcohol agencies have role of informing public about health damage, often with little supervision by independent physicians," said Mark Petticrew, author study. "Our study shows that this is risky because we have shown that alcohol industry gives public misleading information. We do not allow tobacco industry to take initiative to inform public about tobacco damages," says Petticrew, a professor of Public Health at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Petticrew's study points to an "obvious parallelism" with past practices of tobacco industry, as y consider that it uses "similar tactics for same purposes: protecting its benefits, to detriment of public health." "Their strategies are very comparable," says specialist. He adds: "One of most common strategies, confusing public with a lot of unnecessary risk information, has been widely used by tobacco industry for decades."

After analyzing 26 portals and reports, y found important omissions or misrepresentations in 24 of m, especially with respect to colon and breast cancer

In response to study, US trade association Distilled Spirits Council said it was "a highly selective review" by scientists with "anti-alcohol bias", according to Reuters.

Public awareness of risk of cancer from alcohol consumption is low: a recent survey showed that nine out of 10 Britons are unaware of relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer, for example. This analysis suggests that major global alcohol producers seek to mitigate risk of losing sales "by spreading misleading information about cancer through ir responsible consumer organizations."

That is why Petticrew believes that public should reject information provided by alcohol industry "as it is likely to be misleading," and that policy makers should consider "wher it is ethical or acceptable to allow alcohol industry to deceive about public health in this way. " They also "promote ineffective interventions" and focus on individual responsibility of consumers, as tobacco companies and now food industry, rar than establishing a comprehensive strategy from public authorities to address a social problem.


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