Another opportunity for prevention: assessing alcohol use by women attending breast screening services in Lismore, NSW

Michelle D. Daly, Megan E. Passey, Amanda J. Harvey
2009 NSW Public Health Bulletin  
As part of its routine program, BreastScreen New South Wales (NSW) assesses women for breast cancer risk factors. Alcohol use is not currently assessed in any BreastScreen NSW service, despite substantial evidence supporting the association between alcohol consumption and the risk of breast cancer. 1-4 Consumption of 30 g of alcohol each day (three standard drinks) is associated with a similar level of risk to other recognised risk factors for breast cancer, such as young age at menarche and
more » ... at menarche and family Another opportunity for prevention: assessing alcohol use by women attending breast screening services in Lismore, NSW Substantial epidemiological evidence supports the association between alcohol consumption and the risk of breast cancer; however, information on alcohol consumption is not routinely collected by breast screening services in NSW. This study was conducted to investigate the level of self-reported alcohol use among women accessing North Coast BreastScreen in Lismore, NSW. Two hundred and sixty-four consecutive women were screened using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. Their drinking status was categorised as low risk, risky or high risk. Two-thirds of the screened women (69.7%) were classified as low-risk drinkers; 9.8% as risky and 0.4% as high-risk drinkers. Although the risk of breast cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed, evidence suggests that even low-risk drinking is associated with increased risk of breast cancer. Implications for prevention activities by breast screening services are discussed. history; however, alcohol consumption is one of the few risks that is modifiable. 2 The current National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines note that alcohol increases women's risk of breast cancer and the risk increases with the level of alcohol used. Compared with women who drink little or no alcohol, the risk of breast cancer is 35% higher in women who drink three to four standard drinks a day and 67% with more than four drinks a day. Even low level drinking is associated with some increase in risk. 4 The 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that just over half (58.1%) of women aged 60 years or more approved of regular (i.e. daily or nearly every day) alcohol use. Approval for regular drinking in younger age groups was higher, with 74.7% of 40-49-year-old women and 69% of 50-59-year-old women approving of regular drinking. The survey also showed that in the Australian adult female population, 9.6% used alcohol at a level considered to be risky or high risk for long-term harm from a range of chronic physical and psychological illnesses. 5 BreastScreen services are free to eligible women and the uptake is high, with 63.5% of women aged 45-54 years, 80.9% of women aged 55-64; and 84.2% of 65-74year-old women reporting having received a screening mammogram in the previous 2 years. 6 For the North Coast region of NSW, the corresponding figures are 73.1%, 81.9% and 80.5% respectively. 6 We conducted a study to assess the level of self-reported alcohol use among women accessing North Coast BreastScreen. Methods The receptionist or a women's health nurse invited consecutive women attending North Coast BreastScreen in Lismore NSW to participate in a study. They were informed that the purpose of the study was a survey on alcohol use. Those providing written informed consent were asked to complete a brief anonymous questionnaire that included the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) assessment tool and basic demographic information. The AUDIT is a brief 10-item screening instrument developed by the World Health Organization for detecting risky and high-risk levels of drinking. 7 It has been used widely
doi:10.1071/nb07121 pmid:19552856 fatcat:h2aqo6dz2jgrngckpivhfwuj6q