Alcohol Awareness Month: Rethink Your DrinkPosted on by
Jessica B. Mesnick, MPH
CDC Division of Population Health
Most of us are familiar with the link between some lifestyle behaviors and cancer—like smoking or physical inactivity. But some people may be surprised that alcohol consumption is also a risk factor for cancer, and that these lifestyle factors combined contribute to as much as 40% of cancers. Given that half of U.S. adults drink alcohol, it’s important to understand how alcohol use increases the risk of cancer. Here are five things you need to know about alcohol.
Alcohol can affect the normal functions of the cells in your body, causing them to grow out of control into a cancer tumor. Drinking alcohol raises your risk of getting at least six different types of cancer—mouth and throat, voice box (larynx), esophagus, colon and rectum, liver, and breast in women.
The risk of cancer increases with the number of drinks consumed, and even one drink a day increases the risk of developing some cancers. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that if you drink alcohol at all, drink in moderation (up to 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men). Some people shouldn’t drink alcohol at all, including people younger than age 21, women who are or might be pregnant, and people on certain medications.
Although consuming even one drink a day increases your cancer risk, binge drinking is particularly risky. Binge drinking is consuming four drinks or more for women and five drinks or more for men on a single occasion. One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about seven drinks per binge. Binge drinking puts people at risk for many short- and long-term outcomes in addition to cancer, such as injuries, violence, and stroke.
All types of alcoholic drinks, including red and white wine, beer, cocktails, and liquor, are linked with cancer.
Some people may not realize how much alcohol they are drinking. So, what is “a drink”? A standard drink is equal to 14 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. That is:
- 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
- 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
- 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
- 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (such as gin, rum, vodka, whiskey).
Rethink your drink. Reducing your alcohol use can lower your risk for cancer.