When it comes to alcohol and cancer, there’s a lot of conflicting information. Some sources suggest avoiding alcohol completely is the best way to go while others indicate that moderate alcohol consumption can actually reduce your cancer risk. In this article I’m going to be bringing all the information together and discussing exactly how alcohol affects cancer.

How Does Alcohol Increase Your Cancer Risk?

Research has highlighted that there is a strong link between alcohol consumption and cancer risk with the latest statistics suggesting that around 4% of cancers are caused by alcohol. The relationship between alcohol and cancer is also direct, meaning that if you drink moderately your risk of contracting an alcohol related cancer is much lower than if you drink heavily. 

Alcohol generally affects the areas of the body that it passes through such as the mouth and the stomach. However, it has also been linked with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The list below highlights the seven types of cancer that have been directly linked with alcohol consumption:

  • Breast Cancer
  • Colon Cancer
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Laryngeal Cancer
  • Liver Cancer
  • Mouth Cancer
  • Pharyngeal Cancer

Can Alcohol Also Protect Against Cancer?

Although alcohol has been directly linked with seven different types of cancer, some sources suggest that drinking red wine may actually act in the opposite way and protect against cancer.

The reason for this is that red wine contains a potentially powerful phytonutrient called resveratrol. Based on laboratory studies, resveratrol may be able to prevent cancer and a long list of other chronic diseases.

However, there are a number of problems with these studies on resveratrol. First, no trials have been performed on humans, so there is no evidence to suggest that the results achieved in the laboratory will carry over to live humans. Secondly, even if the findings on resveratrol did carry over to humans, the actual amount of resveratrol in red wine is so small that you would need to drink around 40 glasses per day to achieve the cancer fighting effect. Drinking this amount of red wine would seriously damage your health and totally negate the positive effects of resveratrol.

So, while it would be nice to believe that unwinding at the end of the day with a glass of red wine also has the added bonus of preventing cancer, the truth is that alcohol does not have any protective properties when it comes to cancer.


As you can see, drinking alcohol is not a good thing if you want to reduce your cancer risk. However, if you control your alcohol consumption and drink moderately, it’s not going to massively increase your chances of contracting cancer. So by all means, enjoy the occasional drink or two during the week. Just don’t go knocking back the red wine in the hope that it will give you immunity from cancer.



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