Alcohol and Cancer

What to know

  • You can lower your risk for cancer by drinking less alcohol or not drinking at all.
  • All alcoholic drinks, including red and white wine, beer, and liquor, are linked with cancer.
Young woman serving water infused with fruit for friends at a party


Drinking alcohol raises your risk of getting several kinds of cancer:

  • Mouth and throat.
  • Voice box (larynx).
  • Esophagus.
  • Colon and rectum.
  • Liver.
  • Breast (in women).

Some studies show that drinking three or more alcoholic drinks per day increases the risk of stomach and pancreatic cancers. Drinking alcohol may also increase prostate cancer risk. All alcoholic drinks—including red and white wine, beer, and liquor—are linked with cancer. Drinking less alcohol is better for your health than drinking more.

Health advice for people who drink alcohol or are thinking of drinking alcohol

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults of legal drinking age (21 years or older) choose not to drink alcohol or to drink alcohol in moderation (2 drinks or less in a day for men, 1 drink or less in a day for women).

If you're taking prescription medicine, including cancer treatment, ask your doctor if it's safe to drink alcohol.

Frequently asked questions

Why does drinking alcohol raise cancer risk?

When you drink alcohol, your body breaks it down into a chemical that damages your DNA. DNA is the cell's "instruction manual" that controls how a cell grows and does its job. When DNA is damaged, a cell can grow out of control and become cancer. For more information, see the National Cancer Institute's Alcohol and Cancer Risk web page.

How many people die from cancers linked to alcohol use?

Each year, about 20,000 adults in the United States die from alcohol-related cancers. It is estimated most of these deaths may have been avoided if all adults had followed the recommended limits on alcohol use in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans instead of drinking above them.

How can I lower my cancer risk?

You can drink less alcohol or choose not to drink. You can use this tool to check your alcohol use. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about your drinking. You can learn more about how alcohol can affect your health after cancer treatment through CDC's Talk to Someone simulation.

How can doctors help their patients?

Doctors can tell their patients that drinking alcohol increases cancer risk. Doctors can ask adult patients about their alcohol use and offer behavioral counseling to those who drink excessively.

How can communities develop environments that reduce alcohol-related cancer risk?

Communities can create social and physical environments that support people in drinking less alcohol. Learn how these effective alcohol policies work to protect people from alcohol-related harms.

What CDC is doing