Alcohol use is a cause of cancer. Any level of alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing an alcohol related cancer; the level of risk increases in line with the level of consumption.
It is estimated that 5,070 cases of cancer (or 5 per cent of all cancers) are attributable to long-term, chronic use of alcohol each year in Australia.
There is convincing evidence that alcohol use increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, bowel (in men) and breast (in women), and probable evidence that it increases the risk of bowel cancer (in women) and liver cancer. 'Convincing' and 'probable' are the highest levels of evidence as determined by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research and denote that the relationship is causal or probably causal in nature.
Together, smoking and alcohol have a synergistic effect on cancer risk, meaning the combined effects of use are significantly greater than the sum of individual risks.
Alcohol use may contribute to weight (fat) gain, and greater body fatness is a convincing cause of cancers of the oesophagus, pancreas, bowel, endometrium, kidney and breast (in post-menopausal women).
Cancer Council recommends that to reduce their risk of cancer, people limit their consumption of alcohol, or better still avoid alcohol altogether.
For individuals who choose to drink alcohol, Cancer Council recommends that they drink only within the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for alcohol consumption.
The information available on this page should not be used as a substitute for advice from a properly qualified medical professional who can advise you about your own individual medical needs. It is not intended to constitute medical advice and is provided for general information purposes only. See our Disclaimer.