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Alcohol and cancer

Spilt wine illustrationAround 12,800 cancers are attributable to alcohol every year in the UK. This makes alcohol one of the most preventable causes of cancer after smoking.

More than 150 studies worldwide confirm that alcohol is a carcinogen – meaning that it is a particular risk factor in the development of cancer.

However, whilst more than nine in ten of us accept that excessive alcohol is bad for our health, less than half know the link between alcohol and cancer and fewer still are aware of the specific relationship between alcohol and breast cancer

The more alcohol we drink, the greater the health risks. Even light daily alcohol consumption can increase the cancer risk for parts of the body which come into direct contact with alcohol – the mouth, throat, larynx and oesophagus and bowel cancer

How does alcohol cause cancer?

No-one quite understands the exact way in which alcohol can cause cancer, but it is likely due, at least in part, to how alcohol breaks down into the carcinogenic compound called ‘acetaldehyde’ inside the body. This causes genetic mutations and permanently damages DNA, which can lead to the development of cancerous cells.

Read our factsheet on alcohol and cancer, and learn more about how alcohol affects your health

Take a look at the video below from our friends at the charity Balance.


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