Alcohol and Cancer – Position Statement
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% 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.
Smoking and alcohol together have a synergistic effect on cancer risk, meaning the combined effects are significantly greater than individual risks added together.
Alcohol use may contribute to weight gain, and there is convincing evidence that greater body fatness causes 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. For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury. A standard drink contains 10g alcohol, and is equal to 285mL full strength beer, 450mL of low-alcohol (light) beer, 100mL wine or 30mL spirits.