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Drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, and liver in men and women and of breast cancer in women. In general, these risks increase after about one daily drink for women and two daily drinks for men. (A drink is defined as 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.)
The chances of getting liver cancer increase markedly with five or more drinks per day. Heavy alcohol use may also increase the risk of colorectal cancer and leads to greater increases in risk for most of the alcohol-related cancers. The sooner long-term, heavy alcohol use begins, the greater the cancer risk. Also, using alcohol with tobacco is riskier than using either one alone because it further increases the chances of getting cancers of the mouth, throat, and esophagus.
Per capita alcohol consumption: The estimated number of gallons of pure alcohol consumed per person (aged 14 years and older), per year. This measure accounts for the varying alcohol content of wine, beer, and liquor. People as young as 14 are included because a large number of adolescents begin drinking at an early age.
Healthy People 2020 Target
- Reduce average annual alcohol consumption by individuals aged 14 years and older to 2.1 gallons.
Healthy People 2020 is a set of goals set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Note: Goals are indicated as blue line on Detailed Trend Graphs.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Surveillance report #108 – Apparent per capita alcohol consumption: national, state, and regional trends, 1977–2015. April 2017.
Additional Information on Alcohol Consumption
For the public
- Alcohol Use and Cancer. American Cancer Society.
- Alcohol and Cancer Risk. National Cancer Institute.
- Publications – NIAAA resources on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
For health professionals
- Screening and Behavioral Counseling Interventions in Primary Care to Reduce Alcohol Misuse. United States Preventive Services Task Force.
- Alcohol abuse in cancer patients: a shadow side in the oncological field and research. Glasdam S, Oye C. Med Health Care Philos. 2013.
- American Cancer Society Guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. Kushi LH, Doyle C, McCullough M, et al. CA Cancer J Clin. 2012;62(1):30–67.
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Continuous Update Project. World Cancer Research Fund International.
- Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective. World Cancer Research Fund, and the American Institute for Cancer Research.
- Food Intakes, U.S. Population, 2001–04: Usual Intake of Alcohol. National Cancer Institute.