Alcohol

Standard Drink

There is convincing evidence that drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the bowel, breast, mouth, throat, voice box, oesophagus (food pipe) and liver.

Even drinking small amounts of alcohol increases your cancer risk. The more you drink, the greater the risk. If you choose to drink, limit your intake.

Alcohol and cancer risk

The type of alcohol you drink doesn't make any difference. Beer, wine and spirits all increase your risk of cancer. Even at low intake, alcohol contains a lot of energy (kilojoules or calories) so it can easily contribute to weight gain. Being overweight or obese also increases your cancer risk.

Other health problems and alcohol

Heavy use of alcohol is linked to many other health problems such as cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, alcohol dependence, stroke, suicide, injury and car accidents.

Alcohol and heart disease

In the past, researchers believed red wine might have had health benefits for heart disease, but this does not appear to be the case.

There are better things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease as well as cancer, such as not smoking, healthy eating, being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight. It is important to look at the risks and benefits of drinking alcohol for you personally.

Smoking and alcohol

It has been known for a long time that smoking is harmful to health. The combined effects of smoking and alcohol greatly increase the risk of cancer (more so than from either of these factors alone). Up to 75 per cent of cancers of the upper airway and digestive tract can be related to alcohol plus smoking.

What should I do?

To reduce your risk of cancer, if you don't drink, don't start. If you choose to drink:

  • limit your intake - National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.
  • avoid binge drinking. Do not "save" your drinks using alcohol-free days, only to consume them in one session.
  • have at least two alcohol-free days every week.
  • choose low alcohol drinks.
  • eat some food when you drink.

Read more about Alcohol and Cancer here.

If you have any concerns or questions, please contact your doctor.  For more information about Alcohol and Cancer contact Cancer Council 13 11 20. 

Last updated August 2019.

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