June 10, 2015

The Facts about Alcohol

By cancerconnect

Top Five Things Every Woman should Know about Alcohol:

1. Alcohol increases the risk of several types of cancer, including breast cancer and colon cancer.
2. Moderate alcohol intake reduces the risk of heart disease.
3. For young women who have a low risk of heart disease, the risks of alcohol likely outweigh the benefits.
4. The health risks and benefits of alcohol apply to all types of alcohol (beer, wine, and spirits).
5. Women who choose to drink are advised to limit themselves to one drink per day or less.

Who should not drink?

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 20051, alcoholic beverages should not be consumed by some individuals, including:

  • Those who cannot restrict their alcohol intake
  • Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant
  • Pregnant and lactating women
  • Children and adolescents
  • Individuals taking medications that can interact with alcohol
  • Individuals with specific medical conditions
  • Individuals engaging in activities that require attention, skill, or coordination, such as driving or operating machinery

Cancers Linked with Alcohol Use

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Mouth cancer
  • Cancer of the pharynx
  • Cancer of the larynx
  • Esophageal cancer

Defining Alcohol Use

Lifetime abstainer: Fewer than 12 drinks in lifetime.

Former drinker: No drinks in the past year

Abstainer: Fewer than 12 drinks in lifetime or no drinks in the past year

Light Drinker: An average of three or fewer drinks per week

Moderate Drinker: An average of more than three drinks per week, but no more than seven drinks per week for women and no more than 14 drinks per week for men.

Heavy Drinker: More than one drink per day for women and more than two drinks per day for men

How Much Do We Actually Drink?
Women Men
Abstainer 45.5% 32.4%
Light Drinker 42.5% 40.0%
Moderate Drinker 7.5% 22.0%
Heavy Drinker 4.6% 5.5%

Data from the 2006 National Health Interview Survey2

To learn more about the risks and benefits of alcohol, visit The Truth about Alcohol.


1 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005. US Department of Health and Human Services Web site. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/default.htm. Accessed September 22, 2010.


2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 1997-2006. Data on alcohol consumption available at: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/Resources/DatabaseResources/QuickFacts/AlcoholConsumption/dkpat25.htm(Accessed April 29, 2008).

Tags: Nutritional Know-How