There is a lot of confusing information out there about the links between alcohol use and cancer. It can be hard to discern facts from fiction, but don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for. Let’s discuss alcohol and cancer.

Jerry from Toowoomba, Queensland asked:

I heard that drinking alcohol can increase your risk of cancer but only if you drink a lot."

It’s true that drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer. Even drinking small amounts increases the risk of cancer, and the more you drink the greater the risk.

Unfortunately, many people are not aware that alcohol causes cancer. But there is evidence that drinking any kind of (beer, wine, cider, ready-to-drink or pre-mixed products and spirits) increases the risk of developing some cancers including cancers of the bowel, breast, mouth, throat, oesophagus and liver. Alcohol is also high in energy (kilojoules or calories) and can contribute to weight gain. Having overweight or obesity is also associated with higher cancer risk.

If you drink alcohol, Cancer Council Australia recommends you do so within the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines, which were updated in late 2020. These guidelines recommend that 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. Reducing alcohol use would help lower the 3500 cancer cases in Australia each year currently caused by alcohol.

Top tip: It is important to know what counts as one standard drink, find out by using Alcohol Think Again’s standard drink tool.

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This article was last updated 22/09/2023.