Many people do not know that alcohol causes cancer.1,2

Evidence shows that alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer.3 These cancers include breast, colorectal, mouth, throat, liver, esophagus, and larynx (voice box).4

Alcohol causes nearly 7,000 cancer deaths each year in Canada.1

All types of alcohol can cause cancer, including beer, wine, and spirits. Even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful to health.5 The more alcohol consumed, the higher your risk of cancer.6 Using alcohol and tobacco together increases the risk for mouth and throat cancers even more than when either substance is used alone.6

The good news is cancers due to alcohol are preventable.6

Reducing alcohol use is one of the best ways to lower the risk for cancer.1

The link between alcohol and cancer is complex. Other factors also play a role, such as genetics, nutrition, and health behaviours (e.g., smoking, exercise, sleep).7

How does alcohol cause cancer?

When alcohol enters our body, it is broken down into chemicals that can damage our DNA.8

Alcohol can damage cells in the mouth and throat. This makes it easier for things that cause cancer, such as tobacco smoke, to absorb into our bodies.9

Alcohol can cause a rise in hormones, such as estrogen. This can increase the risk of breast cancer.7

Alcohol can damage the stomach and intestines. This makes it hard for the body to get key nutrients that help prevent the risk of some cancers.10

Now that you know alcohol causes cancer, you can take steps to reduce your risk. Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health can help you make informed choices about alcohol use.

Where does alcohol cause cancer?
B r ea s t Mouth Larynx T hroat Esophagus Colo r ectal Li v er

1) Paradis, C., Butt, P., Shield, K., Poole, N., Wells, S., Naimi, T., Sherk, A., & the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines Scientific Expert Panels. (2023, January). Canada’s guidance on alcohol and health: Final report. Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.
2) World Health Organization.(2023, January 4). No level of alcohol consumption is safe for our health.
3) Conner, J. (2017). Alcohol consumption as a cause of cancer. Addiction, 112(2), 222-228. 10.1111/add.13477.
4) World Cancer Research Fund & American Institute for Cancer Research. (2018). Diet, nutrition, physical activity, and cancer: A global perspective. Continuous Update Project Expert Report.
5) Bagnardi, V., Rota, M., Botteri, E., Tramacere, I., Islami, F., Fedirko, V., Scotti, L., Jenab, M., Turati, F., Pasquali, E., Pelucchi, C., Galeone, C., Bellocco, R., Negri, E., Corrao, G., Boffetta, P., & La Vecchia, C. (2015). Alcohol consumption and site-specific cancer risk: a comprehensive dose-response meta-analysis. British Journal of Cancer, 112(3), 580–593.
6) World Health Organization & International Agency for Research on Cancer. (2021, May 19). Factsheet – 5 facts about alcohol and cancer.
7) BC Cancer & British Columbia Ministry of Health. (2023). The proof.
8) World Cancer Research Fund. (2022). Alcoholic drinks and cancer risk.
9) World Health Organization. (2020, September, 12). Alcohol and cancer in the WHO European region: An appeal for better prevention.
10) Hamid, A., Wani, N. A., & Kaur, J. (2009). New perspectives on folate transport in relation to alcoholism-induced folate malabsorption-association with epigenome stability and cancer development. The FEBS Journal, 276(8), 2175–2191.

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