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Alcohol and Your Health

Drinking alcohol raises your risk for developing cancer, heart disease and stroke.  The more you drink the greater your risk!

Alcohol and Cancer

Having as little as one drink a day on average can increase the risk for developing cancer of the:

  • Mouth
  • Pharynx
  • Esophagus
  • Larynx
  • Colon and rectum
  • Liver
  • Breast

If you choose to drink alcohol and want to reduce your risk of cancer, the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) recommends:

  • Keep it to less than 1 standard drink a day for women.  The safest option for women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding is to not drink alcohol at all.
  • Keep it to less than 2 standard drinks a day for men

Alcohol Increases your Risk of Cancer

Alcohol is classified as a “carcinogen” to humans, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

IARC defines a carcinogen as an agent (e.g. chemical) that can increase the risk of cancer. A chemical is only ranked as a carcinogen when there is plenty of evidence in science studies, to show the chemical is able to cause or increase the rate of cancer.

Other carcinogens that are in the same risk category as alcohol are:

Exposure to carcinogens, including drinking alcoholic beverages, increases the risk of getting cancer. Drinking alcohol increases your risk for cancer of the mouth, neck, throat, liver, breast, colon, and rectum. Remember, it doesn’t matter what type of alcohol you drink- beer, liquor, or wine - alcohol is alcohol.

It is beneficial to your health to have non-drinking days.

Alcohol and Your Heart

stethescope in heart shape

Alcohol, especially red wine, has been promoted to be good for your heart. 
But it’s not so simple. Did you know that:

  • Heart health benefits apply mainly to people over 45 years of age, with as little as 1 drink every other day.
  • Any heart health benefit from this small amount of alcohol is lost with one event of heavy drinking. 

Heavy drinking means:

  • 5 or more standard drinks for a man (25 years and older) on one occasion.
  • 4 or more ‘standard’ drinks for a woman (25 years and older) on one occasion
loving couple

To reduce your risks from alcohol:

  • If you don’t drink, don’t start. If you choose to drink, drink less.
  • Eat before and while you are drinking
  • Think about the strength of our drink – choose one with less alcohol
  • Choose non-alcoholic drinks more often
  • Know what a standard drink is
  • Set a limit for yourself and stick to it

Your current health, and your family health history can also impact your risks for getting heart disease and cancer.  Speak to your healthcare provider about your personal risks from drinking alcohol.