Women encouraged to have more drink free days to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer

Date Published

4th October 2018




This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and as part of their Drink free days campaign, Drinkaware and Public Health England (PHE) are encouraging women of all ages to cut down on how much they are drinking by taking more drink free days to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer and a range of other health conditions including liver and heart disease.

Worryingly, every year over 55,100 people in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer[1] with alcohol causing 1 in 13 cases.[2] Alcohol increases the level of oestrogen in the bloodstream and long-term exposure to oestrogens increases the risk of developing breast cancer.[3],[4]

The risks of developing a range of health problems, including breast cancer, increase the more you drink on a regular basis[5]. The UK Chief Medical Officers advise that to keep the health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest for men and women not to drink more than 14 units a week and a good way to help achieve this is to have several drink free days each week.

Commenting, Drinkaware Chief Executive Elaine Hindal said:

“Alcohol causes one in 13 breast cancers which is why it’s so important women are aware of the risks from drinking. If you do regularly drink, having more drink free days a week is a good tactic for cutting down and reducing the risks.”

Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Drugs, Alcohol, Tobacco and Justice at Public Health England said:

“While the link with liver disease is well known, many people are not aware that alcohol can cause breast cancer as well as numerous other serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and several other cancers.”

Television presenter and journalist Kate Garraway and Drinkaware Medical Adviser Dr Sarah Jarvis are supporting the Drink Free Days campaign and want to help raise awareness among women about alcohol and its effects on their health.

Commenting Dr Sarah Jarvis said:

“Women of all ages need to be aware that alcohol increases their risk of developing breast cancer and that the more alcohol they drink, the greater the risk.

“When it comes to breast cancer, there are some risks like a family history of the disease that women can’t control. But there are other risks, such as drinking too much or being overweight that they can.

“For women who choose to drink alcohol, making lifestyle changes like cutting back on regular drinking and having a healthy diet will go a long way towards reducing the risks.

“Cutting back on alcohol by taking more drink free days each week can improve women’s overall health and reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. The more you cut back, the greater the benefit, and everyone who chooses to drink alcohol should stay within the low risk drinking guidelines of 14 units a week.”

“Breast cancer is affecting too many women and their families up and down the country.

“We all need to be talking more openly and candidly about the risks from alcohol on women’s health, in particular breast cancer.

“Tell your Mum, your daughter, your sister, your wife and your best friend about alcohol and breast cancer.

“Tell them that the more alcohol they drink the greater the risk.

“Tell them that a simple and easily achievable way of reducing the risk is by having more drink free days and the Drink Free Days campaign has a wide range of tools and resources available to help them do so – just search drink free days online.”


[1] Compiled by the Cancer Research UK stats team and produced by the regional cancer registries in England and the three regional registries in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The cancer registries collect and record information on cancer registrations and deaths in the UK population. Accessible from https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/breast-cancer/incidence-invasive

[2] Brown et al (2018) The fraction of cancer attributable to known risk factors in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the UK overall in 2015. British Journal of Cancer, 118 (8), 1130 and https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/breast-cancer/incidence-invasive%20-%20heading-Six#collapseFour

[3] Seitz, Pelucchi, Bagnardi and Vecchia. (2012) Epidemiology and Pathophysiology of Alcohol and Breast Cancer: Update 2012 Available at: https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/47/3/204/145832

[4] Colditz GA. Relationship between estrogen levels, use of hormone replacement therapy, and breast cancer, J Natl Cancer Inst , 1998, vol. 90 (pg. 814-23). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9625169

[5] UK Chief Medical Officers’ low risk drinking guidelines, August 2016 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/545937/UK_CMOs__report.pdf