Alcohol consumption is an important risk factor for breast cancer. However, we know little about the reasons and logic for alcohol consumption among Australian women in midlife particularly in relation to diversity in women’s life circumstances. The Osiris study – named after the Ancient Egyptian God of alcohol, life and death – aims to understand the life and social context of women’s alcohol-related decisions. We don’t know enough about women’s perceptions of alcohol as a risk factor for breast cancer and how women’s perceptions of breast cancer risk might translate into responses to reduce risk by reducing alcohol consumption. How women might interpret public health advice to reduce alcohol consumption for breast cancer prevention is also uncertain.
The Osiris study will explore what women during midlife think about the causes of breast cancer, and how alcohol factors into their knowledge of breast cancer risk. Our project will seek to understand how breast cancer risk perceptions relate to whether women are willing to, or if it is feasible to, change their alcohol consumption in midlife. This can be particularly challenging whilst surrounded by alcohol product marketing, advertising and promotions, and living in an environment where alcohol is so readily available and where drinking it is a socially acceptable way to celebrate, commiserate and manage day-to-day stress.
The research project will run across 3 years and will be conducted in three phases. In brief, Phases 1 and 2 will involve collecting ‘evidence’ through interviews and online surveys about what women think are the risk factors for breast cancer including women’s accounts for/against the risk. During Phase 3 we will share our findings in ‘deliberative symposia’ with women from different life circumstances to facilitate informed and critical analysis of alcohol and other risk factors for breast cancer. From this we will develop innovative, appropriate and tailored alcohol-related communication strategies for middle aged women, about alcohol and breast cancer.