Cancer is a complex disease, and numerous factors contribute to an individual’s risk. The American Cancer Society (“ACS”) explains “risk factors” as follows:

A risk factor is anything that raises your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed. Others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t be changed.

The ACS also notes that, “having a risk factor, or even many, does not mean that you will get the disease. And some people who get the disease may not have any known risk factors.”

Studies have found that excessive drinking is associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer, and some have also reported an association between moderate alcohol consumption and an increased risk of breast cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “alcohol consumption is associated with a variety of short- and long-term health risks, including various cancers. The risk of these harms increases with the amount of alcohol you drink. For some conditions, like some cancers, the risk increases even at very low levels of alcohol consumption.”1

The American Cancer Society notes that this association is not specific to any type of beverage alcohol, stating that “ethanol is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks, whether they are beers, wines, liquors (distilled spirits), or other drinks . . . Overall, the amount of alcohol someone drinks over time, not the type of alcoholic beverage, seems to be the most important factor in raising cancer risk. Most evidence suggests that it is the ethanol that increases the risk, not other things in the drink.”[cite][efn_note]Alcohol Use and Cancer| ACS[/efn_note]

NIH also notes that studies examining whether an individual’s cancer risk declines after they stop drinking alcohol. According to NIH, these studies [cite]“In general, these studies have found that stopping alcohol consumption is not associated with immediate reductions in cancer risk. The cancer risks eventually decline, although it may take years for the risks of cancer to return to those of never drinkers.”2

Some studies report reduced risk of certain types of cancer. NIH’s National Cancer Institute, however, notes that “However, any potential benefits of alcohol consumption for reducing the risks of some cancers are likely outweighed by the harms of alcohol consumption.”3

Find research articles and learn more about the studies on alcohol and cancer here:

Additional information about specific types of cancer is here: [clickable links to individual subpages on breast; kidney; liver; mouth, throat, upper airways; stomach, gastrointestinal; other cancers]


  1. Alcohol and Cancer Risk | NIH
  2. Alcohol and Cancer Risk Fact Sheet – National Cancer Institute
  3. Alcohol and Cancer Risk Fact Sheet – National Cancer Institute