'Responsible drinking' campaigns emerged in the early 1970s as a means of addressing hazardous drinking and its related consequences. While these were initially the product of public health agencies and health-related NGOs, they are increasingly being developed and disseminated by the alcohol industry. There is considerable debate as to whether industry-generated campaigns are designed to reduce hazardous drinking and related problems (as argued by their developers) or are designed to avoid government regulation or even to increase sales. The aim of the present study was to explore the way that recent industry-developed responsible drinking campaigns are perceived and interpreted by the general public. That is, do they promote low-risk drinking, promote risky drinking, or just muddy the waters. Two sub-studies were conducted. The first, a mall intercept study with 180 adults in two Australian shopping districts, explored participants' understanding of slogans/taglines. The second, an online survey with 480 Australian adults, explored understandings and interpretations of television/online commercials. The results of the two studies revealed diversity in participants' interpretation of the 'responsible drinking' advertisements. Terminology utilised in industry-developed advertisements was found to be ambiguous; for example, what age group was being referred to in the tagline 'Kids and alcohol don't mix', and whether 'Drink Properly' meant not drinking to excess or drinking in a way that made you look more sophisticated. In Study Two, the government-developed campaign ('Know when to say when') was clearly interpreted as warning against risky consumption of alcohol; whereas the industry-developed campaigns ('How to drink properly', 'Kids absorb your drinking', 'Friends are waiting') were interpreted to have a range of different meanings, including some seemingly unrelated to alcohol. These findings are consistent with the literature evaluating anti-smoking campaigns developed by the tobacco industry, and previous research showing that industry communications serve to soften public opinion and create the impression of a 'socially responsible' industry but are likely to be less effective than initiatives focused on the availability and promotion of alcohol.

Published in Drinking Patterns

An association between heavy alcohol drinking and gastric cancer risk has been recently reported, but the issue is still open to discussion and quantification. We investigated the role of alcohol drinking on gastric cancer risk in the "Stomach cancer Pooling (StoP) Project," a consortium of epidemiological studies. A total of 9,669 cases and 25,336 controls from 20 studies from Europe, Asia and North America were included. We estimated summary odds-ratios (ORs) and the corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) by pooling study-specific ORs using random-effects meta-regression models. Compared with abstainers, drinkers of up to 4 drinks/day of alcohol had no increase in gastric cancer risk, while the ORs were 1.26 (95% CI, 1.08-1.48) for heavy (>4 to 6 drinks/day) and 1.48 (95% CI 1.29-1.70) for very heavy (>6 drinks/day) drinkers. The risk for drinkers of >4 drinks/day was higher in never smokers (OR 1.87, 95% CI 1.35-2.58) as compared with current smokers (OR 1.14, 95% CI 0.93-1.40). Somewhat stronger associations emerged with heavy drinking in cardia (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.11-2.34) than in non-cardia (OR 1.28, 95% CI 1.13-1.45) gastric cancers, and in intestinal-type (OR 1.54, 95% CI 1.20-1.97) than in diffuse-type (OR 1.29, 95% CI 1.05-1.58) cancers. The association was similar in strata of H. pylori infected (OR = 1.52, 95% CI 1.16-2.00) and noninfected subjects (OR = 1.69, 95% CI 0.95-3.01). Our collaborative pooled-analysis provides definite, more precise quantitative evidence than previously available of an association between heavy alcohol drinking and gastric cancer risk.

Published in Cancer

PURPOSE: To estimate the Australian cancer burden attributable to lifestyle-related risk factors and their combinations using a novel population attributable fraction (PAF) method that accounts for competing risk of death, risk factor interdependence and statistical uncertainty.

PARTICIPANTS: 365 173 adults from seven Australian cohort studies. We linked pooled harmonised individual participant cohort data with population-based cancer and death registries to estimate exposure-cancer and exposure-death associations. Current Australian exposure prevalence was estimated from representative external sources. To illustrate the utility of the new PAF method, we calculated fractions of cancers causally related to body fatness or both tobacco and alcohol consumption avoidable in the next 10 years by risk factor modifications, comparing them with fractions produced by traditional PAF methods.

FINDINGS TO DATE: Over 10 years of follow-up, we observed 27 483 incident cancers and 22 078 deaths. Of cancers related to body fatness (n=9258), 13% (95% CI 11% to 16%) could be avoided if those currently overweight or obese had body mass index of 18.5-24.9 kg/m2. Of cancers causally related to both tobacco and alcohol (n=4283), current or former smoking explains 13% (11% to 16%) and consuming more than two alcoholic drinks per day explains 6% (5% to 8%). The two factors combined explain 16% (13% to 19%): 26% (21% to 30%) in men and 8% (4% to 11%) in women. Corresponding estimates using the traditional PAF method were 20%, 31% and 10%. Our PAF estimates translate to 74 000 avoidable body fatness-related cancers and 40 000 avoidable tobacco- and alcohol-related cancers in Australia over the next 10 years (2017-2026). Traditional PAF methods not accounting for competing risk of death and interdependence of risk factors may overestimate PAFs and avoidable cancers.

FUTURE PLANS: We will rank the most important causal factors and their combinations for a spectrum of cancers and inform cancer control activities.

Published in Cancer

The aim of this analysis is to examine long-term trends in alcohol consumption and associations with lagged data on specific types of cancer mortality, and indicate policy implications. Data on per capita annual sales of pure alcohol; mortality for three alcohol-related cancers - larynx, esophageal, and lip, oral cavity, and pharynx; and per capita consumption of tobacco products were extracted at the country level. The Unobservable Components Model was used for this time-series analysis to examine the temporal association between alcohol consumption and cancer mortality, using lagged data, from 17 countries. Statistically significant associations were observed between alcohol sales and cancer mortality, in the majority of countries examined, which remained after controlling for tobacco use (P<0.05). Significant associations were observed in countries with increasing, decreasing, or stable trends in alcohol consumption and corresponding lagged trends in alcohol-related cancer mortality. Curtailing overall consumption has potential benefits in reducing a number of harms from alcohol, including cancer mortality. Future research and surveillance are needed to investigate, monitor, and quantify the impact of alcohol control policies on trends in cancer mortality.

Published in Cancer
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