Reduce your alcohol, reduce your risk


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Fresh evidence from Australia's largest ongoing study of health and ageing confirms the link between alcohol use and seven types of cancers. During five years of the 45 and Up Study the Sax Institute has tracked more than 220,000 participants.

Around 17,000 cancers were diagnosed among the participants. The study found that increased alcohol use was associated with high risk of seven types of cancers: mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, bowel and breast cancer.

The study provides important insight into the long-term effects of alcohol and cancer prevention strategies.

Key findings

  • 7 drinks a week raises the risk of alcohol-linked cancers by an average of 10 per cent
  • 7-14 drinks a week raises the risk of alcohol-linked liver cancer by 48 per cent, those drinking more than 14 drinks a week had a 202 per cent increased risk of liver cancer
  • More than 14 drinks a week raises the "absolute cumulative risk" of seven types of cancers by 4.4 per cent in men and 5.4 per cent in women
  • Concentrated alcohol use over 1 to 3 days per week, increased the risk of breast cancer even further

Marianne Weber, a Senior Research Fellow at Cancer Council NSW and senior author of the paper on the study published in the British Journal of Cancer said, "A recent survey found that 14 per cent of Australians overall and 18 per cent of women had increased their alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic. If we don't reverse this trend, we could see a significant rise in cancers caused by alcohol, which is already attributed to around 3500 new cancer cases each year in Australia."

Know your limits

To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) provides the following advice, in their latest draft of the 'Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol', they recommend:

  • Healthy men and women – no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.
  • Pregnant women, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy – not drinking alcohol is safest option for their baby.
  • Children and young people under 18 years of age - Should not drink alcohol.

The less you choose to drink, the lower your risk of alcohol-related harm. For some people not drinking at all is the safest option.

Managing your alcohol intake

Unsure if you're drinking too much? Try our online confidential Alcohol risk assessment tool to determine if your drinking is putting you at risk.

To track and reduce your alcohol use, download the NSW Health Drinks Meter app. Drinks Meter is a free app that provides confidential and personalised feedback based on advice from doctors and the Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. The app allows you to track your alcohol intake, the amount of calories you are drinking, how much you spending on alcohol and set weekly goals to reduce and stay healthy.

You can also take advantage of the free NSW telephone-based coaching service Get Healthy. The Get Healthy Alcohol Reduction program is designed to support you to make healthy lifestyle changes and reduce your alcohol consumption. The NSW Get Healthy Service is available Mon – Fri 8am – 8pm. To enrol call 1300 806 258 or register online at

For free and confidential advice 24/7 call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. Counsellors are available to provide information, referrals, crisis counselling and support. Or start a Web Chat with an ADIS counsellor online Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 5pm. ADIS can also provide up-to-date information about service availability in your area during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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