Raising awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer

Rhonda WebbAlthough alcohol consumption is linked to several types of cancer, including oral cancers and breast cancer, past research has suggested that many health providers and the general public are not aware of this association. 

That’s why with Masonic support, Rhonda Jones-Webb, Dr.PH., part of the U’s epidemiology and community health faculty, has launched a pilot study to explore whether people across Minnesota know about the link and, ultimately, if they would drink less, get screened for cancer, or take other precautions if they were aware.

After surveying more than 1,700 individuals at the 2019 State Fair, Jones-Webb and her team (colleague Traci Toomey, Ph.D., and Ph.D. student Collin Cavert) found that while many participants knew that alcohol contributes to cancer risk, they were less sure about the types of cancer it causes. 

Their next step is to finish analyzing the data and to dig deeper into perceptions of alcohol use and cancer risk across participants in different demographic groups. Based on the results, they might then apply for a grant to expand the research and potentially develop a public awareness campaign to raise visibility of the alcohol-cancer link in Minnesota and elsewhere. 

“Support from Minnesota Masonic Charities permitted me to expand my research on alcohol-related problems, explore alternative data collection settings like state fairs, develop pilot data for a potentially larger study, and address gaps in alcohol and cancer research. The award also permitted me to support an outstanding Ph.D. student and expose him to the cancer field.”

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