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Regularly drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing breast cancer.
The earlier in your life you start to reduce your drinking, the better.
Reducing your drinking can also help improve your general health and wellbeing, as well as reducing your risk of other cancers and diseases.
It’s not fully understood how alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.
It might change the levels of hormones in the body, including oestrogen. Oestrogen can help some breast cancers to grow.
There may be other ways that alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer, but these are not yet clear.
There isn’t enough evidence to suggest that any type of drink is more of a risk than others.
We do know that the size, alcohol content and the number of drinks can affect your risk.
It’s not yet known whether binge drinking on one or two days a week leads to a higher risk of breast cancer than drinking the same amount spread evenly throughout the week.
For women, binge drinking means drinking about six or more units in a few hours.
The illustration below shows how many women out of 50 will develop breast cancer in their lifetime depending on how many units of alcohol they drink.
In a group of 50 women who do not drink, about six will probably develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
In a group of 50 women who drink two units of alcohol a day (for example, a standard glass of wine), about seven will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
So drinking two units a day causes one extra woman out of every 50 to develop breast cancer.
UK national health guidelines recommend that women drink no more than 14 units a week.
This is the equivalent of six pints of lower-strength beer or six 175ml glasses of wine a week.
If you can, spread your drinks over a few days and have days off drinking each week.
There’s still a risk of breast cancer associated with this level of drinking. However, you can get breast cancer even if you do not drink, and it can be a useful limit to stick to when beginning to cut down.
Units are used as a simple way to express how much alcohol is present in a drink.
The number of units in a drink depends on the size of the drink and its strength, which is usually expressed as a percentage on the bottle or can.