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Alcohol consumption is linked to approximately 3,500 cancer cases in Australia each year.

How is alcohol linked to cancer?

Alcohol affects various parts of our body in different ways. Alcohol can directly cause damage to the cells that line the mouth and throat causing cancer in these parts of the body. Alcohol can also impact breast cancer risk, particularly in post-menopausal women due to how it impacts hormones levels in women. And when alcohol is consumed and digested, the by-products can damage the lining of the bowel to cause bowel cancer.

Cancer Council recommendations

To reduce your risk of cancer, avoid drinking alcohol or if you choose to drink, have no more than two standard drinks per day. Include alcohol free days across the week.

One standard drink

One standard drink is defined as containing 10 grams of alcohol, however, the number of standard drinks in a typical serving of an alcoholic beverage varies between type of drink, size and brand.

In Australia, all bottles, cans and casks of alcohol packaged for sale are required by law to state on the label the approximate number of standard drinks contained. However, if you are buying or pouring a drink in a glass, a standard drink can be harder to determine. Be careful of the size of the glass that the alcohol is served in, and don’t assume that your glass holds one standard drink.

The following are examples of one standard drink:

  • 220–250 ml alcopop/alcoholic soda (⅔ bottle)
  • 100 ml wine (1 bottle = 7 standard drinks)
  • 60 ml (2 nips) of sherry
  • 30 ml (1 nip) of spirits
  • 425 ml (1 South Australian ‘pint’) of light beer
  • 285 ml (1 South Australian ‘schooner’) of full-strength/regular beer or cider

This webpage was last reviewed and updated in January 2020.