Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2018: Drink Less, Reduce your Risk

Drinkaware Supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month

1 in 10 Irish women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Ireland, after skin cancer, and the number of breast cancer cases is rising. Drinking alcohol is known to cause at least seven cancers, including breast cancer. Even just one drink a day will increase the risk of developing breast cancer, among others including mouth, throat and oesophageal cancers by a small amount. There’s no safe limit for alcohol when it comes to cancer, but the risk is smaller for people who drink within the low-risk alcohol guidelines. 

To show our support this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are encouraging people to order our free Get the Facts pack to make it easier to understand drinking habits and its impact on health and wellbeing. It’s simple – the less you drink, the lower the breast cancer risk.


  • Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women in Ireland, skin cancer being the most common.
  • Every year around 2,880 cases are diagnosed and 711 women die from the disease in Ireland.
  • Breast cancer is most common in women from 50 years onwards but it can be diagnosed at a younger age.
  • Breast cancer survival rates are continuing to increase each year. There are 28,000 women living in Ireland currently, who have survived breast cancer.


For women in Ireland, the most important impact from alcohol is in relation to breast cancer. Approximately 12% of all breast cancers (300 cases per year) are associated with alcohol consumption. According to the HSE, compared with a woman who does not drink, a woman who drinks one standard drink per day is associated with a seven per cent increase in the risk of developing breast cancer,  while consuming three to six standard drinks per day increases the risk of breast cancer by 41%.

There’s no safe limit for alcohol when it comes to cancer, but the risk is smaller for people who drink within the low-risk alcohol guidelines. Take small steps to drink less to help lower your cancer risk.

Order our free Get the Facts pack


Are you drinking within the HSE low-risk alcohol guidelines? Less than 2% of Irish women can correctly identify the guidelines but they are important to know and can help you to see how much you are really drinking over the week. Remember, these are guidelines – not a target.

  • Women: Less than 11 standard drinks (110g pure alcohol) spread out over the week, with at least two alcohol-free days

Common examples of one standard drink are a half pint of lager/stout/cider, a 100ml glass of wine or pub measure (35.5ml) of spirits. This means a woman’s weekly guidelines is less than one and a half bottles of wine, which is less than many people think. On average, it takes one hour for the body to process one standard drink and there’s no quick fix – only time.

Try our drinks calculator to see if you are drinking within the guidelines


Stuck for ideas? Here are some small steps you could take to drink less alcohol. Remember, everyone’s motivation for drinking less is different so it’s important to choose small steps that work for you.

  • Always use a standard drink measure: never free-pour spirits or wine. Order one for free
  • Never top up your wine glass – always finish one glass before refilling. Topping up your glass makes it harder to track how much you’re drinking.
  • Stay out of rounds – you may end up drinking far more than you intended as you are more likely to drink at the pace of the fastest person in the group.
  • Set yourself a limit on a night out. If you usually go for an after-work drink on a Friday, why not set a limit on the number of drinks you will have in advance? Keeping this number in mind will help you to keep track and stick to it.
  • Alternate each drink with a glass of water to reduce the dehydration associated with alcohol. Keep a jug of water on the table to make this easier.
  • Take advantage of the increasingly available lower or no-alcohol beer or wine and swap out your usual drink.
  • Break your habits at home. This can seem like a nice way to unwind after a long day but it can often result in drinking more than usual. If your normal night in includes a drink in front of the TV, consider doing something different like going for a walk or try not to keep alcohol in the house.
  • If you would like to stop drinking completely, we have some advice to help.

Read more about alcohol and cancer