Every year, alcohol causes around 12,800 cases of cancer in the UK (around 4% of all cancer cases). Alcohol increases the risk of seven types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, upper throat, voice box, food pipe, breast, liver and bowel.
The less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of cancer so it's always worth keeping track of and reducing the amount that you drink. No type of alcohol is better or worse than another, it is the alcohol itself that leads to the damage, regardless of whether it is in wine, beer or in spirits. There’s no ‘safe’ limit for alcohol when it comes to cancer, but the risk is smaller for people who drink within the government guidelines.
The government guidelines are given in units of alcohol. One unit of alcohol is the equivalent of 10ml of pure alcohol content is not the same as one drink. Most alcoholic drinks contain more than 1 unit. The number of units in a drink is determined by the size of the drink and how strong it is.
Even low levels of drinking can increase the risk of some cancers – but drinking within these limits keeps the health risks low. To reduce the risk of harming your health:
- Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
- It is recommended to spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week.
Aside from cancer, alcohol can also lead to accidents and injuries, stroke, high blood pressure, liver disease and pancreatitis. Cutting down could help reduce the risk of these conditions as well. Also, drinking less can help you avoid hangovers, sleep better, cut out some ‘empty’ calories and save money!
In many pubs and bars, drinks are being served in larger glasses or amounts, and drinks, especially wines, beers and ciders, come in a wide range of strengths. It can be difficult to keep track - to help you work out how many units you have had, download the new One You Drinks Tracker.
Tips on cutting down:
There are lots of simple ways to cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink. It can help to work out if there are particular situations when you tend to have a drink and plan in advance. This may be after a difficult day at work or at a weekly pub quiz you go to with friends.