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Breast cancerAlcohol and breast cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most lethal cancers for women in Wales, but not everyone is at the same level of risk. Some lifestyle choices – including how much you drink – can make a big difference to your risk of developing breast cancer.

We’ve known for a long time that alcohol can cause cancer. It’s not clear exactly how alcohol causes breast cancer, but it seems to be due to the way alcohol breaks down into toxic chemicals in our bodies and the way it increases production of the female hormone oestrogen. Breast cells are particularly sensitive to oestrogen, and when they’re exposed to higher than normal amounts they may become cancerous.

All together, more than 50 studies have confirmed that alcohol is a particular risk factor for breast cancer. Consuming large amounts of alcohol or drinking every day on a daily basis increases your risk. Each drink per day is thought to increase your risk of developing breast cancer by between 7 and 12 per cent.

How can I reduce my risk?

It makes no difference what type of alcoholic drink you have. The crucial factor is how much actual alcohol you have – how strong your drinks are and how many you have. Women should not regularly drink more than 2 to 3 units of alcohol a day – so not more than one glass of wine each day – and should not drink any alcohol at all at least 2 days a week. You can track how many units of alcohol you’re drinking each week – and how this can affect your health – with our drink units calculator

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

Check out the video below from our friends at the charity Balance.


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