Just one alcoholic drink a day can increase breast cancer risk

New breast cancer report highlights dangers

For the latest relevant information relating to this topic, please see our press release dated 24 May 2018, about the release of our report Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective.

23 May 2017

Drinking just one alcoholic drink a day can increase breast cancer risk, a new report by World Cancer Research Fund has revealed[1].

The report found strong evidence that drinking just the equivalent of a small glass of wine or half a pint of beer a day (about 10g alcohol content), could increase your pre-menopausal breast cancer risk by 5% and your post-menopausal breast cancer risk by 9%.

World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about 12,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented in the UK each year if nobody drank alcohol.[2]

This robust scientific report evaluated all of the research worldwide on how diet, weight and exercise affect breast cancer risk. It also found that vigorous exercise that increases heart rate such as cycling, swimming or running can decrease the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer and both moderate exercise, such as walking, and vigorous exercise can decrease the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer.

In addition the report showed that being overweight or obese increases the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer, the most common type of breast cancer. Being overweight or obese is also linked to several other cancers, including liver, pancreatic and bowel cancers.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK with over 55,000 new cases each year.[3] It is responsible for more than half a million deaths worldwide each year.[4]

The UK government recommends drinking no more than 14 units a week equivalent to 7 drinks a week, spread across at least 3 days.

Dr Rachel Thompson, Head of Research Interpretation at World Cancer Research Fund, said:

“To help prevent breast cancer, one of the most important steps women can take is to not drink alcohol or reduce the amount of alcohol they drink.

“Maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough exercise are also important for preventing breast cancer.

“It may be the most common cancer in women worldwide, but our evidence shows that there are steps that women can take to significantly reduce their breast cancer risk."

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance said:

“With the evidence on breast cancer and alcohol being so strong, it is vital that consumers are aware of this fact. We would encourage policymakers to use this evidence to take actions to help reduce the amount of alcohol people drink and therefore reduce the burden of breast cancer in the UK.”


For more information contact:

Lucy Eccles, Press and Communications Officer WCRF on 020 343 4235 or l.eccles@wcrf.org

Notes to editors:

About World Cancer Research Fund

For the past 25 years, World Cancer Research Fund has been the UK’s leading charity dedicated to the prevention of cancer through diet, weight and physical activity. By funding and supporting research, developing policy recommendations and providing health information, we have ensured that people can make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their risk of developing a preventable cancer. As we look forward to our next 25 years, our scientific research ensures that we will continue to have the latest and most authoritative information at our fingertips, all underpinned by independent expert advice.

For more information visit www.wcrf-uk.org, follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wcrf_uk, read our blog at http://wcrf-uk.org/uk/blog or visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/wcrfuk

About the research:

This report is part of the Continuous Update Project, an ongoing programme to analyse global research on how diet, nutrition, physical activity and weight affect cancer risk and survival. Among experts worldwide it is a trusted, authoritative scientific resource, which underpins current guidelines and policy for cancer prevention.

The report analysed 119 studies and including data on 12 million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer.