It’s easily done – a quick drink after work one day, a glass or two with dinner another, or cracking open a bottle of wine and settling down to watch a film after a busy week at work. But have you stopped to think about how the amount you drink adds up – and what that means for your health?

Monday 17 November 2014      Health information blog
Think twice: The link between alcohol and breast cancer

There is no single cause of breast cancer – it results from a combination of different factors. Many things that affect your risk of breast cancer can’t be changed, such as your age, height and genetics. However, there are some things we can change.

The link between alcohol and breast cancer

Regularly drinking alcohol – even just one drink a day – increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer, which is already the most common cancer in the UK. Around 3,000 cases of breast cancer per year in the UK are attributed to alcohol.

Research has shown that breast cancer risk increases the more you drink.  In a group of 100 women who do not drink, around 11 are likely to develop breast cancer during their life. Whereas in a group of 100 women who drink two units of alcohol a day – which is the equivalent of a standard glass of wine – about 14 will develop breast cancer.

We’re not saying don’t drink at all – many of us enjoy a drink every now and then. But think twice about how much alcohol you’re drinking and try to limit the amount you drink, for example by cutting back or having some alcohol-free days.

Understanding how much alcohol you’re drinking is an important first step. There are two units in a standard 175ml glass of wine or pint of lager, beer or cider and three units in a large glass of wine or pint of strong lager, beer or cider.

Department of Health guidelines recommend:

  • no more than 2-3 units a day for women
  • a maximum of 3-4 units a day for men
  • at least two alcohol free days per week.

Prevention is better than cure

Breakthrough’s hope is that one day we will be able to stop breast cancer for good and part of how we’ll achieve this is to pinpoint the root causes of the disease. That’s why we run the Breakthrough Generations Study, the world’s largest and most comprehensive study of its kind, following more than 113,000 women across the UK of different ages and from a range of backgrounds. Through detailed analysis of the various lifestyle and environmental factors that might influence breast cancer risk we are confident that we can unravel some of the biggest questions about how to prevent the disease altogether.

Until this day comes we recommend that women try to maintain a healthy weight, are regularly physically active and, if they do drink, to do so in moderation in order to help reduce their risk of developing this devastating disease.

Partnership with Balance

The Think Twice campaign is running in the North East, where Balance found that almost two thirds of women didn’t know the more they drink the greater the risk of breast cancer – something both organisations want to address.

To see the campaign videos and to find out more information about alcohol and cancer, visit You can also help the women you know and love reduce their risk by sharing our message across social media. Find us on Facebook at and on Twitter @BalanceNE. Tweet us using #ThinkTwiceUK

Eluned Hughes is Breakthrough's Senior Information Manager