Alcohol and Cancer ‘Spread’ and ‘Stains’

‘Spread’ and ‘Stains’ campaigns

The Alcohol and Cancer ‘Spread’ and ‘Stains’ campaign was developed by the Drug and Alcohol Office (now Mental Health Commission), in partnership with Cancer Council WA and Injury Control Council of Western Australia (now Injury Matters).

‘Spread’ and ‘Stains’ aimed to reduce high-risk alcohol consumption by increasing awareness of the health risks related to the long-term consequences of harmful drinking, and in particular alcohol-caused cancer. The campaign focused on the theme that alcohol is carcinogenic; that there are a range of alcohol caused cancers including mouth, throat, pancreas, liver, bowel and breast (in females); and every drink increases a person’s risk of developing alcohol caused cancer.

The key message was based on the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) guideline for reducing the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime, where for healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease.

‘Spread and Stains’ launched in May 2010 and was in-market until May 2011.

The campaign was a joint initiative of the Drug and Alcohol Office (DAO) and the Injury Control Council of WA (ICCWA).

Target group

20 to 29 year old men and women, as the latest data shows that this group in particular are drinking at risky levels in terms of both short-term and long-term harm.

Key message

To stay at low risk of alcohol-caused cancers, have no more than two standard drinks on any day.

Campaign objectives

  • Raise awareness of alcohol-caused health problems such as alcohol-caused cancer.
  • Increase awareness of how to stay at low-risk in accordance with the NHMRC drinking guideline.
  • Increase the personal relevance of the alcohol and cancer message among the target group.


An independent social research agency was engaged to conduct a campaign evaluation following its first year in market conducted in June 2011. These comprised of 400 respondents each across WA.

An independent social research agency was engaged to conduct a mid-campaign evaluation in June 2011 after the first year in market. The online evaluations were conducted with a representative sample of Western Australians.

A summary of these mid-campaign evaluation results can be found below. These are compared to the baseline research conducted in April 2010.  

  • In 2011, almost three in four (74%) recalled the campaign when prompted. This was higher than that recorded in 2010 (58%).
  • Almost nine in 10 (86%) either correctly or partially correctly took out the desired key message.
  • Awareness that alcohol can increase the risk of cancer increased significantly between baseline (61%) and following 2011 campaign activity (86%).
  • In 2011, more than nine in 10 believed either ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’ that ‘there is a link between drinking alcohol and getting cancer’ (95%) and that ‘the more alcohol you drink, and the more often, the greater your risk of cancer’ (93%).
  • The most recalled types of cancer that can occur from alcohol consumption were relatively consistent across years, being liver (50%), breast (42%), bowel (40%) and throat (30%) - as directly mentioned in the execution.
  • Of those who reported drinking alcohol, almost one in five (19%) reported they had taken active steps to reduce their consumption in 2011.
  • Those who generally drink more than the NHMRC guidelines were more likely to be concerned about their own alcohol consumption; want to drink slightly less than current; and intended to drink slightly less than current.

For more findings from the mid-year evaluation, click here.


Campaign Video
30 second 'Spread' Television Commercial

30 second 'Stains' Television Commercial

Related Information

Alcohol & Your Health

Harmful drinking can occur in the short-term and long-term. NHMRC released guidelines that give advice on minimising health consequences of drinking alcohol.

Alcohol and Your Long-Term Health

Regular and ongoing drinking can cause long term damage to organs.

Alcohol and Cancer

Alcohol is a Class 1 carcinogen. The more you drink and the more often you drink, the greater the risk of developing cancer.

What is a Standard Drink?

A standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol, learn how this relates to beer, wine and spirits.


National Health and Medical Research Council 2009, Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol, Commonwealth of Australia 2009.

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