Please DO NOT DELETE this page.

Blog //
  • Wellbeing

The news about alcohol and cancer which might shock you

24 September, 2019
Alcohol and cancer

Would it surprise you to know that alcohol falls into the category of Group 1 carcinogens? This is the highest rating a substance can get for cancer risk factors. It places alcohol firmly in the same category as solariums, asbestos, arsenic, tar and smoking.

Despite this, it’s hard to imagine an Australia without alcohol – drinking is so embedded within many social practices and celebrations. Backyard BBQs, birthday parties, weddings… almost any social gathering. As a country, our alcohol consumption is widespread. We’re in the top 30 of 180 countries for per capita alcohol consumption worldwide. In fact, nearly four in five of us drank alcohol in a 12-month period. However as times change, research shows that daily drinking in Australian adults is on the decline. Also, an increasing proportion of younger Australians are abstaining from drinking. The Australian Government’s 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) found that half of drinkers had taken action to moderate their drinking behaviour due to health reasons. It seems like education in recent years around alcohol and its negative health impacts is now having cut-through with our population.

We’re pretty familiar with some of the perhaps better-known impacts of drinking, including road accidents, accidental injury, poor mental health, liver damage, alcohol poisoning and of course the hangover. So, how does alcohol relate to cancer? We know now that alcohol has a convincing link to cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, liver, oesophagus, bowel and breast. In Australia, more than 5,000 cancer cases a year are linked to alcohol consumption.

How can you be safer?

Unfortunately, the definitive answer is this: there is no safe limit of alcohol you can drink when it comes to cancer risk. The more alcohol a person consumes over a lifetime, the greater the risk of developing alcohol-related cancers. There aren’t any safe types of alcohol to enjoy risk-free either. This is because it’s the ethanol – present in all alcohol – which irritates your body’s cells and increases the cancer risk.

Drinking behaviour is a personal choice. If you feel you can’t give up completely, you could lower the amount you drink and how often. The Australian guidelines to reduce health risks say that adults shouldn’t drink more than two standard drinks per day, and never more than four on one single occasion. People under 18 should not drink alcohol at all. 

The Cancer Council recommends that it’s important to understand what makes for a standard drink. The drinks we pour ourselves, or are served to us, are often a lot more than one standard. Here is what one standard drink looks like, thanks to the Cancer Council. It’s less than you might think!

Diagram of 1 standard drink

It’s not uncommon for people to pair cigarettes with their alcohol. Smoking and drinking together leads to an increased risk of cancers as opposed to when people do one or the other. The risk of mouth and throat cancers can be up to 35x greater for people who smoke and drink heavily. Quitting smoking can reduce your cancer risk.

Where to go for help

You hold the cards to reducing your cancer risk. If you need help with reducing your drinking or smoking, see your GP or try these services:

Alcohol help contacts:

Smoking help contacts:



All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified Health Care Professional.


Suggested Articles

  • An image of nutrient-rich vegetarian Mexican bow

    Mexican in a bowl

    If you can’t go out for Mexican, make it at home! This nutrient-rich vegetarian Mexican bowl is a quick and easy dinner.
    • Nutrition
    19 May 2020
  • Private Hospital Benefits at Healthscope Group Hospitals

    Private Hospital Benefits at Healthscope Group Hospitals

    CBHS has agreements with over 500 private hospitals across Australia including the Healthscope Group of Hospitals (Healthscope).
    • Membership
    18 May 2020
  • 2003_COVID19_Blog-08

    Financial assistance to members who hold Extras cover

    Here is what we are doing to support our members from both a health and financial perspective through the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • News
    • Membership
    6 May 2020
  • 2003_COVID19_Blog-08

    CBHS COVID-19 Health and Financial Assistance Program

    Here is what we are doing to support our members from both a health and financial perspective through the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • News
    • Membership
    27 April 2020

What Our Members Think

I joined as a CBHS member in 1978. Through many health events and challenges CBHS has always been there for me and my family. Their exceptional service over this time has always been appreciated.

- Jenny J

What Our Members Think

I've not long joined CBHS from another fund, but so far I've been impressed by the super helpful and friendly staff, the higher claim limits and rebates at a very competitive premium, and how easy it is to lodge manual claims through the app. Thanks CBHS - you've won me over! 😃

- Jessica B

What Our Members Think

What I love about CBHS is their customer service - friendly staff and always ready to help and email you the information you ask about. Keep up the great work!!!

- Linda S

What Our Members Think

I love CBHS as its so so easy to lodge a claim and whenever i need a question answered friendly consultant is one phone call away. The phone back option instead of waiting is brilliant!

- Rachel N

What Our Members Think

I have been with CBHS since I began at CBA 15 years ago...Now I have three beautiful children, one who has a disability. Our top extras cover has been really essential for his early intervention. I do love the ease of claiming online.

- Annette E

What Our Members Think

I am relatively new to CBHS and am loving it already. I worked for a CBA subsidiary a long time ago but was still eligible to join. So much better that the for-profit funds - our premium is only a little more and we pay a lower co-contribution and get great benefits. I am loving the massage rebate for my partner and gym rebate for me!

- David G

What Our Members Think

I'm extremely happy with CBHS! I have been a customer for about six years. I think the price is reasonable. And i would refer you to my family and friends any day. Thank you CBHS!!!

- Karen W

What Our Members Think

Love CBHS as I never have to doubt that they've got my back when I need it. Been through other insurers who have limited options or limits, yet cost the same or more.

- Mark F