Alcohol consumption and cancer risk

Alcohol consumption and cancer risk

Alcohol consumption is associated with numerous well-known health risks, standing as a leading risk factor globally for illness, disability, and mortality. However, the general public continue to be ignorant of the direct link between alcohol and cancer. Reports indicate that nearly 17,000 new cancer cases in the UK in 2020 were attributable to alcohol, translating to approximately 46 new diagnoses daily.

Having even a bit of alcohol affects your health. Your liver works like a safety checker for alcohol, just like with other drugs. But this job uses up nutrients that could be doing other important things. So, when your liver deals with alcohol, it’s kind of like it’s on a break from its other important tasks for your body.

After you drink alcohol, the acetate it creates gets sent from your liver into your bloodstream. From there, it heads to your large intestines for elimination. Once in your intestines, your gut bacteria use it like plant food, encouraging the growth of specific types of bacteria. At first glance, this might seem good, but it can mess up the balance of bacteria. When some bacteria types start going crazy and take over, it’s called dysbiosis. Since your gut microbes play a big role in your health, anything throwing them off balance can have serious consequences.

Research from Global Cancer Update Programme (CUP Global), the most extensive and authoritative source of current research on the connections between diet, nutrition, physical activity, and cancer, has highlighted the undeniable influence of alcohol on cancer risk. Strong evidence reveals that alcohol significantly increases the risk of developing seven types of cancer: mouth, throat, oesophageal, breast, stomach, bowel, and liver. Notably, for certain cancers like breast cancer, there is no identified safe level of consumption. The risk for other cancer types significantly escalates with a daily intake of two or more drinks.

To mitigate cancer risk and enhance overall health, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) recommends limiting or abstaining from alcohol consumption. Aligning with this, the UK government advises both men and women to restrict alcohol intake to no more than 14 units per week, spread across a minimum of three days.


  1. Gut microbiota and voluntary alcohol consumption | Translational Psychiatry (
  2. Global burden of cancer in 2020 attributable to alcohol consumption: a population-based study(
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