PUBLISHED ON: 14 December 2018

It’s easily done – a quick drink after work, a glass with dinner, then cracking open a bottle at the weekend.

And with the festive season fast approaching, there’s even more opportunities than normal to have a glass or two of your favourite tipple. 

But what is it doing to your health? Here, we explore the inconvenient truth about the links between alcohol and breast cancer. 

What are your chances?

Your risk of breast cancer will depend on how much alcohol you tend to drink, because the more you have regularly the more likely you are to develop the disease at some point in your life. And we’re not just talking about binge drinking – even one drink a day can increase your risk. 

In a group of 50 women who don’t drink, about six will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. But in a group of 50 women who drink two units of alcohol a day, about seven will develop breast cancer – that’s one extra woman out of every 50 to develop breast cancer. 

Do we know how alcohol is linked to breast cancer?

We’re still not sure how alcohol increases the chance of developing breast cancer, but if might alter the levels of hormones in the body, including oestrogen (the female sex hormone). Oestrogen is an important hormone that perform lots of roles in the body, but unfortunately it can also increase the growth of some breast cancers.
Some early research also suggests that alcohol causes direct damage to our cells, although more work is needed to confirm this. 

Do you drink too much? Here’s what you should be drinking 

We’re not saying you should never touch a drop of booze again - but sticking to the national health guidelines of 14 units a week is a good way to cut down. It’s important to make sure you have some drink free days each week too. 

Depending on the strength and your drink of choice, there’ll be a different number of units in it. Our table below helps you to see what you’re drinking.

The graph below shows how many women out of 50 will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, depending on how many units of alcohol they drink.

Challenge yourself to Dry January

Taking part in Dry January is a great way to start cutting down. Almost two thirds of people who take part say they drink less six months on. 

So, sign up to Dry January and vow to 31 days of no hangovers, better sleep and more pennies in your pocket. You’ll get tips and advice to get you through the month booze free.

Sign up to Dry January