Alcohol use increases the risk of cancer. There is convincing evidence that alcohol use increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, bowel (in men) and breast (in women), and probable evidence that it increases the risk of bowel cancer (in women) and liver cancer. Convincing and probable are the highest levels of evidence as determined by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research and denote that the relationship is causal or probably causal in nature.
The type of alcohol (eg. beer, wine, spirits etc) you drink doesn’t make any difference; 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.
It is not just heavy drinking that increases cancer risk. Even drinking small amounts of alcohol increases the risk of these cancers, and studies show the more you drink, the greater the risk.
Cancer Council Tasmania recommends you limit, or better still, avoid alcohol to reduce the risk of cancer. For people who choose to drink alcohol, Cancer Council Tasmania supports drinking within the current National Health and Medical Research Council Australian Guidelines. So, for healthy men and women, this means no more than 2 standard drinks on any one day.
What is a standard drink?
A standard drink contains 10g of alcohol. One standard drink is:
- 100ml of wine (1 bottle of wine contains around 7 standard drinks)
- 30ml (1 nip) of spirits
- 285ml of normal strength beer
- 450ml of low alcohol beer
- 220-250ml alcoholic soda (around 2/3 bottle)
- Cocktails contain between 1 and 3 standard drinks
Tips for drinking less
- Switch to light beer.
- Alternate alcoholic drinks with water or fruit-based drinks.
- Order half nips of spirits.
- Use water to quench thirst and sip alcoholic drinks slowly.
- Wait until your wine glass is empty before topping up to help keep count of your drinks.
- Enjoy wine spritzers (wine and soda or mineral water).
- Have a few alcohol-free days during the week, especially if you are a regular drinker.
- Avoid salty snacks that make you thirsty so you drink more.
- Cancer Council Australia Alcohol and Cancer Position Statement
- National Health and Medical Research Council Alcohol Guidelines