Even small amounts of alcohol increases the risk of cancer. You can reduce your cancer risk by drinking less alcohol.
Click on the headings below to learn more about the links between alcohol and cancer.
Drinking alcohol increases your risk of mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, bowel, liver and breast cancers. Did you know that mouth cancers are six times more common in alcohol drinkers than in non-drinkers?
Alcohol irritates the cells in the body, which can lead to cancer. It can also increase levels of the hormone oestrogen, which is linked to breast cancer. Alcohol also causes cirrhosis of the liver, which can lead to liver cancer.
Even drinking small amounts of alcohol increases your risk of cancer. The more you drink, the greater the risk. The type of alcohol you drink – wine, beer or spirits – doesn’t make any difference. Your risk of cancer increases with every alcoholic drink you have.
We know that smoking is harmful to health, and smoking and drinking alcohol at the same time increases your risk of cancer even more.
Up to three-quarters of the mouth and upper airway cancers are caused by the combination of smoking and alcohol.
Alcoholic drinks are high in kilojoules, especially when added to sugary mixer drinks. This can lead to weight gain.
Being above a healthy weight is also a risk for 13 types of cancer.
Cancer Council recommends people drink less alcohol to reduce their risk of cancer. People who don’t already drink, shouldn’t start.
If you do drink alcohol, follow the guidelines:
- No more than 10 standard drinks a week
- No more than 4 standard drinks on any one day
It’s also a good idea to have some alcohol-free days each week.
If you are planning a pregnancy, pregnant, breastfeeding, or are under 18 years of age, it is safest not to drink alcohol.
One standard drink contains 10g of alcohol, such as:
Some cocktails contain more than three standard drinks! Drinks served at home and at restaurants and bars usually contain more than one standard drink.
- Have some alcohol-free days each week
- Choose a non-alcoholic drink, such as sparkling water with fruit
- Drink water to quench thirst
- Alternate alcoholic drinks with water
- Set yourself a limit and stop once you’ve reached it
- Be the designated driver
- Switch to lower alcohol varieties or dilute alcoholic drinks with soda water or mineral water
- Eat while you drink to slow your drinking pace
- Avoid salty snacks that make you thirsty
- Catch up with friends for a coffee rather than an alcoholic drink
- Meet friends to play games or sports or go walking rather than going to the club, pub or bar