Global prevalence and content of information about alcohol use as a cancer risk factor on Twitter

Andy J. King, Natalie M. Dunbar, Drew Margolin, Rumi Chunara, Chau Tong, Lea Jih-Vieira, Cindy B. Matsen, Jeff Niederdeppe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Alcohol use is a major risk factor for several forms of cancer, though many people have limited knowledge of this link. Public health communicators and cancer advocates desire to increase awareness of this link with the long-term goal of reducing cancer burden. The current study is the first to examine the prevalence and content of information about alcohol use as a cancer risk on social media internationally. Methods: We used a three-phase process (hashtag search, dictionary-based auto-identification of content, and human coding of content) to identify and evaluate information from Twitter posts between January 2019 and December 2021. Results: Our hashtag search retrieved a large set of cancer-related tweets (N = 1,122,397). The automatic search process using an alcohol dictionary identified a small number of messages about cancer that also mentioned alcohol (n = 9061, 0.8%), a number that got small after adjusting for human coded estimates of the dictionary precision (n = 5927, 0.5%). When cancer-related messages also mentioned alcohol, 82% (n = 1003 of 1225 examined through human coding) indicated alcohol use as a risk factor. Coding found rare instances of problematic information (e.g., promotion of alcohol, misinformation) in messages about alcohol use and cancer. Conclusions: Few social media messages about cancer types that can be linked to alcohol mention alcohol as a cancer risk factor. If public health communicators and cancer advocates want to increase knowledge and understanding of alcohol use as a cancer risk factor, efforts will need to be made on social media and through other communication platforms to increase exposure to this information over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107728
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Alcohol use
  • Cancer
  • Cancer control
  • Cancer prevention
  • Health communication
  • Public communication environment
  • Risk communication
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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