Drink less alcohol

Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink will reduce your cancer risk. For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol.

Reducing your alcohol use is a step towards living a longer, healthier life. As well as reducing cancer risk, drinking less alcohol saves money, helps improve sleep and helps with maintaining a healthy weight.

How does alcohol increase cancer risk?

Alcohol contains ethanol, which is a Group 1 carcinogen (cancer-causing compound). When being broken down by the body, ethanol becomes a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde, which can damage the DNA of your cells causing cancer.

Alcohol can damage the lining of the mouth and throat causing cancer in these parts of the body. When alcohol is digested it can break down into compounds that cause bowel cancer.  Alcohol can also impact the levels of hormones that are linked to breast cancer.

Yellow text saying alcohol increases the risk of at least 7 types of cancer and an Icon of a body labeled with seven cancer areas on a dark blue background

What are the alcohol guidelines?

It doesn’t matter what type of alcohol you drink – the cancer risk increases with every alcoholic drink you have. There is no safe level of alcohol use. For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol.

Those who do not drink should not take up drinking. If you choose to drink, follow the Australian Government guidelines and remember the less you drink the better. 

  • Have no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any drinking occasion.

What is 1 standard drink?

One standard drink contains 10g of alcohol and equals:

  • 100mL of wine

  • 30mL (one nip) of spirits

  • 60mL (two nips) of fortified wine

  • 285mL (one middy) of normal-strength beer

  • 450mL (one schooner) of low alcohol (light) beer

  • 220-250mL ready-to-drink alcoholic sodas

  • 200mL cider

Some cocktails contain more than three standard drinks! Drinks served at home and at restaurants and bars usually contain more than one standard drink.

Why is alcohol harmful?


The more you drink, the greater your cancer risk

Drinking any type of alcohol increases your risk of bowel, breast, kidney, liver, mouth, throat, oesophagus and stomach cancer. The more you drink, the greater the risk.

bathroom scales

Alcohol can contribute to excess weight gain

Alcoholic drinks are ‘empty kilojoules’ meaning they are high in kilojoules and low in nutrients – which can lead to excess energy intake and weight gain.  High body weight is a risk factor for risk of 13 types of cancer.

medical chart

Alcohol use increases the risk of bowel and breast cancer

There is strong evidence that alcoholic drinks increase the risk of bowel and breast cancers. In fact, over 1,600 bowel and breast cancers are caused by alcohol each year in Australia.

Small changes make a big difference

If you do drink alcohol, here are 3 ways to reduce how much you drink:




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© Cancer Council NSW 2024 Head Office Address: 153 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo NSW 2011. Cancer Council NSW is registered with the Australian Taxation Office as an Income Tax Exempt Charity: Charitable Fundraising Authority No. 18521.

Some images on this site have been supplied by Cancer Council Western Australia's Crunch & Sip website

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