Avoid or limit alcohol

1 in 10 cancers in men is caused by alcohol. And alcohol is the world’s leading risk factor for death among males aged 15-59, according to the World Health Organisation.

Alcohol is linked to cancer of the mouth, upper throat (phyarynx, voice box or larynx), oesophagus, bowel and liver. If you drink and smoke, you risk of cancer is even higher.

Drinking alcohol also puts men at increased risk of stroke, heart disease, liver cirrhosis and poor mental health.

Reduce your risk of cancer by avoiding alcohol

To help prevent cancer it is best we don’t drink any alcohol.

There is no ‘safe’ level of alcohol drinking, but the risk of cancer is lower the less alcohol you drink.

You can limit your risk of cancer and other diseases by drinking no more than two standard drinks per day if you are a man. Drink no more than 17 standard drinks a week if you are a man, with 2 or 3 alcohol-free days.

  • A standard drink is a ½ pint of beer, lager, cider of stout.
  • 1 measure of spirits.
  • A small glass of wine (a bottle of wine is eight standard drinks).

Tips for sensible drinking:

  • When ordering drinks, opt for the smallest serving size. All licensed premises now have to offer small glasses of wine and single measures of spirits.
  • Switch to shandies, non-alcoholic beers or soft drinks as the night goes on.
  • Avoid double measures of spirits, which are often encouraged as 'better value'.
  • Don't drink alcohol when you are thirsty because you are likely to drink more. 
  • Have a glass of water or a non-alcoholic soft drink to quench your thirst before having an alcoholic drink.
  • Alternate between alcoholic and soft drinks.
  • Sip your drink slowly to pace yourself and make it last longer.
  • Dilute alcoholic drinks or opt for low calorie/low alcohol alternatives. For example, opt for a white wine spritzer with soda water rather than a full glass of wine.
  • Aim to keep at least a few nights each week alcohol free.
  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. The alcohol will be absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly.
  • Make sure you drink water before and after you drink alcohol to rehydrate yourself.
  • Know how much you’re drinking - Most people drink more than they think. Count your standard drinks for a week to find out.
  • Measure your drinks at home - It’s easy to pour a double or a treble measure of spirits without realising, and a big wine glass can hold 2 or 3 standard drinks.
  • Try to quit smoking - If you drink and smoke, your risk of cancer is even higher. See our How to quit smoking page.

Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink has many advantages including:

  • Increased energy.

  • Better sleep.

  • Less weight gain.

  • Increased stability in mood.

How do I know if drinking could be damaging my health?

This short test by Alcohol Action Ireland will help you to find out whether your drinking could be harmful.

If you regularly drink heavily, think you might be dependent on alcohol or are concerned about your drinking, you might like to seek support. Your GP will be able to guide you through the help available to find something that suits you.

Date Last Reviewed: 
Tuesday, June 6, 2017