Reasons for cutting down
There is no 'safe' level of alcohol drinking, but the risk of cancer is lower the less alcohol you drink.
Maria cut down on alcohol, and gained new-found confidence. She shared her story with us, telling us what made her cut down, and how she feels now.
Feeling inspired? Visit Change4Life for tips to help you cut down on alcohol.
In the UK the government guidelines are given in units of alcohol. 1 unit of alcohol is the equivalent of 8g or 10ml of pure alcohol content. People are advised not to regularly drink more than:
- 2 - 3 units a day for women
- 3 - 4 units a day for men
It can be easier to think of the guidelines as drinks rather than units. That works out as a limit of about 1 standard drink a day for women, or 2 standard drinks a day for men.
The government recommends that women should avoid alcohol altogether for at least the first 3 months of pregnancy and if they're trying to become pregnant. In later pregnancy, the government recommendation is to have no more than 1 or 2 drinks a week and to avoid binge drinking or being drunk.
The more you cut down on alcohol, the more you could cut your risk. So it's always worth reducing the amount you drink.
What is a unit?
A unit is not the same as a drink. Most alcoholic drinks contain more than 1 unit. The number of units in a drink is determined by the size of the drink and how strong (i.e. alcoholic) it is.
In many pubs and bars, drinks are being served in larger glasses or amounts, and many drinks are getting stronger. This means that you might be drinking much more alcohol than you think.
- A premium pint of lager, bitter or cider (5%) contains 3 units
- An ordinary strength pint of lager, bitter or cider (3 - 4%) contains 2 units
- A bottle of wine (12.5%) contains 9.5 units (just over 4.5 units each if you share a bottle between 2)
- A large 250ml glass of wine(12.5%) contains 3 units
- A standard 175ml glass of wine (12.5%) contains 2 units (many pubs and bars call this a small glass)
- A large double measure of spirits (2 x 35ml at 40%) contains 3 units
- A large single measure of spirits (1 x 35ml at 40%) contains 1.5 units
- A small double measure of spirits (2 x 25ml at 40%) contains 2 units
- A small single measure of spirits (1 x 25ml at 40%) contains 1 units
- A 275ml bottle of alcopop (5%) contains 1.5 units
To work out the units in your drink and track your drinking, try the NHS drinks tracker, you can download it to your desktop or mobile.
Other benefits of cutting down on alcohol
Aside from accidents and injuries caused by impaired judgement, affected balance and vision, alcohol can also cause stroke, high blood pressure, liver disease and pancreatitis. Cutting down could help reduce the risk of these conditions as well.
There are many other benefits to cutting down on alcohol, such as:
- Cut out some 'empty' calories
- Sleep better
- Feel better - alcohol is a depressant
- Save money
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team