Alcohol and Cancer ‘Could Happen to You’

The Alcohol and Cancer ‘Could Happen to You’ 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).

This campaign was an expansion of the ‘Spread’ and ‘Stains’ campaign. ‘Spread’ and ‘Stains’ was successful in increasing community awareness of the link between cancer and alcohol. However, there remained a need to establish the link irrefutably. Some of the barriers to accepting this link included mixed messages regarding alcohol and health and also scepticism that alcohol is ‘just another thing’ that causes cancer.

The ‘Could Happen to You’ campaign built upon the work of ‘Spread’ and ‘Stains’ by consolidating the evidence regarding the link between alcohol and cancer into one advertisement, as well as continuing to move the target group along the behaviour change continuum towards low-risk drinking.

In order to legitimise the campaign message and increase believability among the target group, Professor Ian Olver (medical oncologist and then-Chief Executive Officer, Cancer Council Australia) was used as an expert medical spokesperson. 

The campaign focused on the fact that alcohol is carcinogenic, there are a range of cancers caused by alcohol and every drink increases a person’s risk of developing alcohol-caused cancer.

‘Could Happen to You’ and was in market between March and May 2012.

Target group

Adults aged 25 to 54 years.

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 National Health and Medical Research Council Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking.
  • Increase the personal relevance of the alcohol and cancer message among the target group.


An independent social research agency was engaged to conduct post-campaign evaluation in May 2012. The evaluation comprised a total of 400 respondents across WA.

  • Almost four in five (78%) of the target audience recognised the campaign when prompted.
  • Spontaneous awareness among the target audience was also high (51%), with many able to describe the ad in detail, and some quoting exact wording of the ad or using key terminology such as ‘class 1 carcinogen’.
  • Over two thirds (69%) of the target audience correctly recalled the key message.
  • A significantly higher proportion of the target audience recalled two standard drinks as the guideline to minimise long-term health risk in 2012 (56%), compared to 2011 (47%).
  • There was high recall (91%) and believability (90%) that “there is a link between getting alcohol and cancer”.
  • Compared to baseline levels (2010), the proportion of the target audience correctly identifying alcohol as a factor that increases cancer risk (unprompted) has shown a steady increase over time (61% in 2010 pre-campaign and 82% in 2012 post-campaign).
  • Two in five (40%) reported an intent to reduce their alcohol consumption within the next three months.
  • One in five (20%) reported having recently taken some steps to reduce their alcohol consumption. For risky drinkers, this proportion was slightly higher (28%).

For more findings from the evaluation, click here.


Campaign Video
15 second TV Commercial

30 second TV 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

The Alcohol and Cancer campaign aims to increase personal relevance of links between alcohol and cancer and focusses on the long-term risks of harmful drinking.

What is a Standard Drink?

It is important to keep track of how much alcohol you drink. A standard drink measures the amount of pure alcohol in a drink not the amount of liquid.

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