Safe level of alcohol

Recent research published in The Lancet exploring the burden of disease caused by alcohol across 195 countries and territories concluded that: “the safest level of drinking is none”.

The same is true for cancer. This is because any alcoholic beverage a person drinks contains pure alcohol (also known as ethanol). When our bodies break down the pure alcohol we drink, a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde is produced. This chemical is linked to damaging DNA and increasing cancer risk.

You can work out how much ethanol is in your alcoholic drink by looking at how strong it is (the % Alcohol By Volume [ABV] on the bottle). For example:

  • A 375ml stubby of 4.5% ABV beer has around 17ml – or half a shot – of ethanol
  • A 150ml glass of 12.5% ABV wine has around 19ml – or more than half a shot – of ethanol

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that in 2016/17, the average Australian aged 15 or older who drank alcoholic beverages consumed around 12.0 litres of pure alcohol over those 12 months.

The good news is the less a person drinks, the lower their risk of developing a cancer caused by alcohol. Almost a quarter of us also don’t drink. And there’s a heap of simple tips you can try as an alternative to alcohol.