Why and how should I drink less?

The less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of cancer. Compared to people who drink more, overall, the risk of cancer is 6% lower:

  • In men who take less than two standard alcoholic drinks per day. This equates to one pint.
  • In women who consume less than one standard alcoholic drink per day. This equates to one small glass of wine or half a pint

Cut your risk of cancer

If you cut back drinking from four or more drinks each day, to one or fewer drinks each day, you can reduce your chance of getting:

  • Liver cancer by 21%
  • Colorectal cancer by 31%
  • Breast cancer in women by 30%.

Aside from cancer, alcohol can also cause accidents and injuries, stroke, high blood pressure, liver disease and pancreatitis. Cutting down could help reduce the risk of these conditions as well.

Also, drinking less can help you:

  • Avoid hangovers
  • Save money
  • Sleep better
  • Cut out some ‘empty’ calories.

Alcohol guidelines

To reduce your risk of cancer, and to keep healthy risks to a minimum, women should drink no more than 11 standard drinks a week. Men should drink no more than 17 standard drinks a week.

Be aware of how many standard drinks are in your favourite drink. For example, there are two standard drinks in a pint.  And remember these drink guidelines are a limit, not a target.

These guidelines are intended for adults only. When considering these guidelines, it is important to remember that drinks should be spaced out over the week and should never be saved up to drink in one session. The HSE recommends that you aim for at least two alcohol-free days every week.

And remember these drink guidelines are a limit not a target. When it comes to alcohol and cancer, less is better. None is best. 

What is a standard drink?

One standard drink of alcohol is:

  • A half pint of beer, lager or stout
  • One small glass of wine (100ml)
  • One measure of spirits.

As a rough guide, a standard drink contains about 10-12 grams of pure alcohol. However, some restaurants and bars serve larger drinks than the standard. Also, there are differences in the size and strength of a standard drink across European countries.

You should avoid alcohol:

  • During pregnancy
  • While breast-feeding
  • When trying for a baby.

How to cut back on alcohol

 Drinking less alcohol is just one of the things you can do to lower your risk of developing cancer
There are a number of easy things you can do to cut back on the amount of alcohol you drink

Keep track

There are lots of other simple ways to start cutting down. For many people, simply tracking how much you drink can be an eye opener – there are lots of free apps and tools available for your phone or tablet.

And if you’re drinking in a group, if you stay out of large rounds you won’t have to match anyone else’s pace. You can also more easily avoid being cajoled into having a drink that you don’t really want.