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Tip #8:Drink Moderately

•Alcohol use is a risk factor for many cancer types.
•The effect of alcohol is different in men and women.
•Hormones may be the link between alcohol and breast cancer.
•Smoking and drinking together intensifies the cancer-causing properties of each substance.
•Drinking too much on a single occasion or over time – can take a serious toll on your health.

It is an unfortunate reality that alcohol is a drug that causes cancer, in fact alcohol causes approximately one in every ten cancers in the EU. Consumers of alcohol have a basic right to be informed of this unfortunate reality…

Dr Nick Sheron, Royal College of Physicians

What cancers are caused by alcohol?

Source: Association of European Cancer Leagues
The effect of alcohol is different in men and women. If you are a woman, drinking alchohol contributes to the risk of cancers of the pharynx, larnyx, oesophegous, colorectum and breasts (based on 25g per day). In men, there is a low risk of lung cancer, stomach, colon and rectum. A medium risk in the oesophagus, the larynx and liver and a higher risk in the oral cavity.

What are the facts?
The International Agency on Research on Cancer Monographs has declared alcohol carcinogenic.

It is the ethanol within alcohol that is carcinogenic and it is impossible to differentiate between different risks associated with different alcohol. According to some studies, 10% total cancer in men and 3% total cancer in women could be attributable to alcohol consumption

If you drink alcohol, whether beer, wine or spirits, moderate your consumption to two drinks per day if you are a man or one drink per day if you are a woman.
European Code Against Cancer and Scientific Justification: third version 2003

Cancer risks

Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Know the risks:
The risk of throat and mouth cancers is especially high because alcohol and tobacco both come in direct contact with those areas. Overall, people who drink and smoke are 15 times more likely to develop cancers of the mouth and throat than nondrinkers and nonsmokers. In addition, recent studies estimate that alcohol and tobacco together are responsible for:


One recent, groundbreaking study followed the drinking habits of 1.2 million middle-aged women over 7 years. The study found that alcohol increases women’s chances of developing cancers of the breast, mouth, throat, rectum, liver, and esophagus. The researchers link alcohol to about 13 percent of these cancer cases.

In addition, the study concluded that cancer risk increases no matter how little or what kind of alcohol a woman drinks. Even one drink a day can raise risk, and it continues to rise with each additional drink. While men did not participate in this study, the researchers believe this risk is likely similar for men.

This study also attributes about 11 percent of all breast cancer cases to alcohol. That means that of the 250,000 breast cancer cases diagnosed in the United States in 2008, about 27,000 may stem from alcohol.

Alcohol and Cancer Risk

Source: The website of the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)

What is the evidence that alcohol drinking is a cause of cancer?

Clear patterns have emerged between alcohol consumption and the development of the following types of cancer:

The Million Women Study in the United Kingdom (which included more than 28,000 women with breast cancer) provided a more recent, and slightly higher, estimate of breast cancer risk at low to moderate levels of alcohol consumption: every 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day was associated with a 12 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer (8).

“…Consumers of alcohol can substantially lower their risk of developing cancer by drinking less, and drinking less often

Dr Nick Sheron, Royal College of Physicians

Useful Websites:
Drink Aware.ie
Rehab4Alcoholism  (UK)
Rehab4Addiction  (UK) is a free helpline run by people who’ve beaten drug and alcohol rehab themselves.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

International Agency for Research on Cancer
Association of European Cancer Leagues

Cancer Prevention

Page updated 2024

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