What do we know about alcohol and cancer?

What do we know about alcohol and cancer of the mouth, head and neck?

Alcohol is a major risk factor for certain head and neck cancers, particularly mouth cancer, throat cancer and cancer of the larynx (voicebox).

People who have three or four standard drinks a day have two to three times the risk of these cancers than people who have never drank. And if you drink and smoke together, your risk of getting these cancers is far higher than either drinking or smoking alone. Alcohol and tobacco together are estimated to account for about three-quarters of oral cancer cases in Europe.

Read more about mouth, head and neck cancer.

What do we know about alcohol and oesophageal cancer?

Alcohol is a major risk factor for a particular type of oesophageal cancer called oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

If you drink and smoke together, your risk of oesophageal cancer is far higher than either drinking or smoking alone.

Read more about oesophageal cancer.

What do we know about alcohol and breast cancer?

More than 100 studies have looked at the link between alcohol and breast cancer in women. These studies have time and again found drinking alcohol increases your breast cancer risk.

Even small amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer. A recent review of evidence showed that even one standard drink a day could increase the risk of breast cancer by 5 per cent (see note 3 below). And the risk increases the more a woman drinks.

Read more about breast cancer.

What do we know about alcohol and liver cancer?

Alcohol is one of the main risk factors for liver cancer.  Heavy drinking can lead to cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver as a result of continuous, long-term liver damage. Cirrhosis increases the risk of liver cancer.

Alcohol also further increases the risk of liver cancer in people with hepatitis B or C infections (who are already at higher risk).

Read more about liver cancer.

What do we know about alcohol and bowel cancer?

An analysis of 57 studies that examined the association link between alcohol and bowel cancer showed that people who regularly drank three or four drinks a day had 1.5 times the risk of bowel cancer than people who never drank.

Even fairly small amounts can have an effect. One very large study found that for every 2 units a person drinks each day (less than a large glass of wine) their risk of bowel cancer goes up by 9 per cent.

Read more about bowel cancer.

Date Last Reviewed: 
Friday, December 2, 2016