National Cancer Institute  U.S. National Institutes of Health

Cancer Trends Progress Report – 2011/2012 Update

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In the Report
Summary Tables
Smoking Initiation
Youth Smoking
Adult Smoking
Quitting Smoking
Clinicians’ Advice to Quit Smoking
Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco Dependence Treatments
Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
Red Meat Consumption
Fat Consumption
> Alcohol Consumption
Physical Activity
Sun Protection
Secondhand Smoke
Tobacco Company Marketing Expenditures
Early Detection
Life After Cancer
End of Life

Alcohol Consumption
Prevention: Behavioral Factors

Per capita alcohol consumption was relatively stable between 1995 and 2009.

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Alcohol and Cancer

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, and liver in men and women and of breast cancer in women. In general, these risks increase after about one daily drink for women and two daily drinks for men. (A drink is defined as 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.)

The chances of getting liver cancer increase markedly with five or more drinks per day. Heavy alcohol use may also increase the risk of colorectal cancer and leads to greater increases in risk for most of the alcohol-related cancers. The earlier long-term, heavy alcohol use begins, the greater the cancer risk. Also, using alcohol with tobacco is riskier than using either one alone because it further increases the chances of getting cancers of the mouth, throat, and esophagus.

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Per capita alcohol consumption: The estimated number of gallons of pure alcohol consumed per person (aged 14 years and older), per year. This measure accounts for the varying alcohol content of wine, beer, and liquor. People as young as 14 are included because a large number of adolescents begin drinking at an early age.

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Period – 1990–2009

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Trends – Falling from 1990 to 1995 and then rising from 1995 to 2009.

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Most Recent Estimate

In 2009, per capita alcohol consumption was 2.3 gallons for all beverages, including beer, wine, and liquor.

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Healthy People 2020 Target

Reduce annual per capita alcohol consumption to 2 gallons.

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Groups at High Risk for Using Alcohol

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that alcoholic beverages should not be consumed by some individuals, including those who cannot restrict their alcohol intake, pregnant women, children and adolescents, those taking medications that can interact with alcohol, those with certain medical conditions, and those who plan to drive, operate machinery, or take part in other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination or participate in situations or activities where impaired judgment could cause injury or death (e.g., swimming).

Many people start drinking as early as middle school (aged 13–14 years). Among those aged 12–17 years, whites and Hispanics are more likely than blacks to use alcohol. Among alcohol drinkers, those aged 18–25 years consume greater quantities than any other group.

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Key Issues

Some studies suggest that alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of some non-cancer health conditions. However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of health considerations.

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Additional Information on Alcohol Consumption

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Back: Fat Consumption

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