Health and wellness

Almost half of the Hongkongers who consume alcohol go binge drinking, survey finds

  • Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society says most are not aware they are heightening their chance of developing the disease
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 December, 2018, 5:52pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 December, 2018, 10:59pm

Almost half of the Hongkongers who drank alcohol between August and November went binge drinking at least once, according to a survey by a cancer awareness group.

The Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society polled 1,019 people and found only 2 per cent were aware that drinking could increase the risk of breast cancer – the most common form of the disease among women in the city.

The findings were released on Sunday just days after a ban came into effect on Hongkongers under 18 years of age buying alcohol in shops.

Some 698 survey respondents said they had consumed alcohol in the prior three months. Forty-five per cent of these people had been binge drinking at least once in that period.

Binge drinking was defined as a minimum of five cans of beer, five glasses of wine or five shots of spirits in one sitting.

The survey was carried out between October 26 and November 7.

“I was a bit surprised with the percentage for binge drinking,” said Dr Rico Liu King-yin, chairman of the society’s cancer education subcommittee.

“It does imply drinking is very common. Also, it does imply there is a very low level of vigilance towards the side-effects of drinking.”

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When asked what illnesses were most closely related to drinking, the interviewees named liver disease, heart disease and high blood pressure as the top three. Fewer than 30 per cent chose cancer. They were asked to choose three options from a range of illnesses.

Some 77 per cent were aware that drinking could increase the risk of liver cancer, and 54 per cent knew of the link with stomach cancer. But only 2 per cent made a connection with breast cancer.

According to data from the World Cancer Research Fund, alcohol heightens the risk of at least six types of the disease, including liver, colorectal, breast and stomach.

A Danish study published in 2007 showed binge drinking could increase the chance of developing breast cancer by 55 per cent when compared with the consumption of one drink.

The latest survey revealed 40 per cent of Hongkongers wrongly believed that taking up drinking at an early age could help the body adapt to alcohol and lower their cancer risk.

But Liu said the toxicity and side-effects of alcohol could not be reduced. There was no safe level of consumption, he added.

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The doctor advised Hongkongers with a drinking habit to cut their intake, and those without the habit to abstain from alcohol altogether.

Since the ban on sale to minors took effect on November 30, the Department of Health has received 11 complaints about alleged violations of the law.

Director of Health Dr Constance Chan Hon-yee on Sunday said those complaints included five alleged cases involving sale to the underaged, and six cases of signs not being displayed stating the regulations.

Chan said departmental officers had inspected more than 170 locations since November 30, and about 30 had not been displaying a sign.