RESEARCHERS in Southampton are leading a revolutionary national initiative to incorporate alcohol awareness into breast screening and breast cancer clinic appointments.

The project – Abreast of Health – aims to enable women to record the amount of alcohol they consume and eventually receive feedback through the development of a web-based app.

It is being led by Dr Julia Sinclair, a consultant in alcohol liaison, and Dr Ellen Copson, a consultant in breast oncology, of University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. The 18-month programme, which is being funded by the Medical and Research Council, is being developed in Southampton. As part of the programme researchers will use the study as an awareness-raising initiative alongside input into the development of an app.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, with one in eight women likely to be diagnosed at some point in their lifetime – but around 30 per cent of cases may be preventable through changes in lifestyle. In a pilot study, less than 20 per cent of women who attended screening or a symptomatic clinic in Southampton were aware of alcohol as a risk factor for breast cancer – despite it being second only to obesity.

Dr Sinclair, who is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Southampton, said: “This is really about prevention and the first part of the study is to get women’s input into what the app should be about because most of the apps available at the moment are for people at higher levels of risk of drinking and we don’t need to replicate them.“We will use already established services such as screening and clinic appointments to determine information needs, how tailored and supportive public health messages can be provided and what tools – such as an app – can help women to develop a longer-term motivation to reduce alcohol consumption.“We want to empower women to know what they are drinking as so many are unaware and, for breast cancer, the risk increases with every unit of alcohol consumed from one unit a day – which is around half a medium glass of wine.”

“Evidence shows that people are more receptive to health improvement advice and to make positive changes in their lifestyle when facing significant health events."