Alcohol and mouth, throat and voice box cancers
Drinking alcohol increases your risk of mouth, throat and voice box cancers
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Drinking alcohol causes mouth cancer, throat cancer and voice box cancer.
Not everyone who drinks alcohol will get cancer, but the risk starts to increase even at low levels of drinking.1,2 So, the less you drink, the more you reduce your risk.
An unhealthy lifestyle and poor diet can also put you at greater risk of these types of cancer.
These three types of cancer are:
Mouth cancer is the most common, but tumours can develop anywhere in the mouth and throat, including tonsils and saliva glands.3
Oesophageal cancer (also known as food pipe or gullet cancer) is another one of the seven types of cancer that can be caused by alcohol, but this isn’t normally considered a ‘head or neck’ cancer.
Combining smoking with alcohol significantly increases the risk of getting mouth, throat and voice box cancers. Tobacco is highly carcinogenic (meaning it’s a substance that causes cancer), and alcohol may make the mouth more absorbent, which allows these carcinogens to enter the body.
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of mouth, throat and voice box cancers by itself, and smoking increases this risk too - even if you don’t drink alcohol. But the harmful effect of smoking and drinking alcohol together is bigger than the sum of their individual effects.5
Detecting these types of cancer early is important because delayed diagnosis can lead to a potentially worse outcome.6 The symptoms of the different mouth, throat and voice box cancers are wide ranging and depend on the area where the cancer has developed.
For detailed information on the symptoms associated with these types of cancer, visit the NHS website.
There are several things you can do to reduce the risk of developing mouth, throat and voice box cancers:
 GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators. (2018) Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet. 392:1015–35. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310-2
Last Reviewed: 12th January 2022
Next Review due: 12th January 2025