Limit alcohol consumption

Don't drink alcohol graphicFor cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol.

There are lots of good health reasons for cutting down on alcohol including reducing your risk of at least 6 types of cancer. For some cancer types, alcohol is particularly harmful if you also smoke.

> Find out more about the Risk Factors around alcohol and cancer

To reduce your cancer risk as much as possible, we recommend not drinking alcohol at all. If you do choose to drink alcohol, follow national guidelines. In the UK, the guideline is to drink no more than 14 units a week, spread over at least three days for both men and women.

What is a unit of alcohol?

A unit of alcohol is 8g or 10ml of pure alcohol.

  • One 25ml measure of spirits (40% ABV) such as vodka or whisky is 1 unit
  • One small (125ml) glass of wine (12% ABV) is 1.5 units
  • One bottle of lager/ beer/ cider (330ml, 4.5% ABV) is 1.5 units
  • One pint of beer/ lager/ cider (4% ABV) is 2.2 units

The higher the alcohol by volume (ABV), the stronger the drink. You can find the ABV on the labels of alcoholic drinks.

For example, wine that says ‘12% ABV’ or ‘alcohol by volume 12%’ means that 12% of that drink is pure alcohol.

> Use our alcohol calorie calculator to see how many calories are in different drinks

Tips for reducing your alcohol intake

Follow our top 10 tips for cutting your alcohol consumption and reducing your cancer risk.

1. Opt for the smallest serving size

Remember the standard serving size may not be the smallest. Avoid double measures of spirits, even if they are promoted as ‘better value’.

2. Alternate!

Replace every other alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink such as water or a low-calorie soft drink.

> If you’re entertaining at home, try our alcohol-free Berry Sparkle

3. Dilute alcoholic drinks

Dilute alcoholic drinks with a low-calorie mixer to make them last longer. For example, rather than a large glass of wine, pour half and fill the remainder of the glass with soda water or sugar-free lemonade.

> How many calories are you drinking? Try our alcohol calorie counter

4. Avoid salty snacks

Drinking alcohol can cause us to be tempted by foods high in fat and salt, leading us to make unhealthy choices. Salty snacks can make you thirsty and may encourage you to drink even more.

5. Don’t stock up on alcohol

The more you buy and have in the house the more likely you are to drink.

6. Drink water first

Before reaching for an alcoholic drink, have a glass of water or a no-added-sugar drink first as you may just be thirsty. This will also help you drink less alcohol if you do choose to have some.

7. Sip slowly

Don’t hold on to your glass while drinking. Instead, take a sip and put down the glass after each mouthful. This will slow down your drinking and may mean you drink less over the same period of time than you normally would.

8. Plan ahead and keep track

At the start of the week think about what social plans you have coming up and set yourself an alcohol limit for each one – you may even pick a couple not to drink at.

When you’re drinking, make a note of how much you drink. This way you can see how much and how often you drink, and if you’ve stuck to your initial plan – you may be surprised!

9. Change your drinking habits

People often drink alcohol to relieve boredom or stress. If you find yourself drinking when bored or stressed, try to set yourself some goals such as not drinking when feeling stressed or doing something creative instead – exercise is also a great distraction. Try allocating certain days of the week where you don’t drink any alcohol too.

10. Buy low-alcohol or alcohol-free alternatives

There is a wide array of options available nowadays; for example, light and alcohol-free lager and beers and even alcohol-free sparkling wines.

This way you can still feel like you are drinking, and avoid any awkward questions about why you aren’t, but it will be healthier for you as drinking alcohol increases the risk of at least six different types of cancer.

Download our Facts about alcohol factsheet