Healthy Eating Guidelines For After A Cancer Diagnosis: Alcohol


Research shows that drinking alcohol increases risk of developing several types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice-box), esophagus, colon, rectum, liver and breast. Although drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol may help prevent heart disease, drinking any amount of alcohol appears to increase cancer risk. If you choose to drink alcohol, be sure not to drink more than a moderate amount (see below).

Alcohol may cause irritation if you have oral mucositis. Oral mucositis is the inflammation and breakdown of the tissue lining the mouth. Oral mucositis can occur if you are receiving radiation treatments to the mouth or throat or are having certain chemotherapies.

If you have mucositis or are at risk of having mucositis, you should avoid alcohol, including any beverages, mouthwashes, vitaminmineral supplements and cough syrups containing alcohol.

Steps You Can Take

Speak with your doctor if you have questions about whether it is safe for you to drink alcohol.

If you drink alcohol at all, limit to 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.

  • One drink is equal to one of the following choices:
    • 350 mL (12 oz) bottle of beer
    • 150 mL (5 oz) of table wine
    • 45 mL (1 ½ oz) of liquor (such as vodka, whisky, rum or gin)

If you do not drink alcohol now, do not start to lower risk of heart disease. You can lower your risk of heart disease in other ways, such as by eating a diet low in saturated and trans fat, maintaining a healthy body weight, getting regular physical activity, controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol level and by not smoking.

Additional Resources

Dietitian Services Fact Sheets available by mail (call 8-1-1) or at

Canadian Cancer Society

Last updated: October 2008

These resources are provided as sources of additional information believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of publication and should not be considered an endorsement of any information, service, product or company.

Distributed by:

Dietitian Services at HealthLinkBC (formerly Dial-A-Dietitian), providing free nutrition information and resources for BC residents and health professionals. Go to Healthy Eating or call 8-1-1 (anywhere in BC). Interpreters are available in over 130 languages.

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