Welcome to Can We’s conversation on alcohol and cancer risk

We all know that in our LGBTQ+ communities, enjoying a few drinks can be part of the scene. It can often feel like alcohol is intertwined within the rainbow communities’ fabric.

But here’s the thing – sometimes we might be sipping more than we realise. LGBTQ+ people tend to drink more alcohol than the rest of the population, which can put us at greater risk of alcohol-related cancers and other health issues.

Together, we can make mindful choices about how we enjoy our drinks and find a better balance in our relationship with alcohol.



So, How Much Alcohol Do We Drink?

To find out the answer we surveyed LGBTQ+ folks.

Most of us enjoy a drink, but many of us are overdoing it.

Check out the numbers:

  • A quarter have more than 10 drinks a week (the national guideline).
  • Nearly half drink every week or more.
  • About 90% of us have had a drink in the past year.
  • Many of us drink more often than the general population.
  • And we often think we drink less than others.[1]

Why Do We Drink More?

There are reasons for our drinking habits:

  • To express or identify with sexuality and gender identities.[2]
  • Stress from discrimination or tough experiences.[3],[4]
  • Socialising in the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Targeting by the alcohol industry – nearly every type of alcohol has a rainbow flag on it at Mardi Gras.[5]
  • Not getting the right support to reduce alcohol.[6],[7],[8]
  • We might drink to cope, but that can backfire.

Why Think About Cutting Back On Alcohol Consumption?

There are plenty of good reasons to cut back on alcohol, some you might know, and others could surprise you. Here’s why you might consider drinking less:

Avoiding Accidents and Violence

Drinking in excess can lead to some serious issues, like:

  • Arguments or fights that get out of hand.[9]
  • Experiencing violence or even assault.[10]
  • Having sex you regret, like unsafe sex or an awkward one-night stand.[11]
  • Accidents from things like drink driving, falling or drowning.[12],[13]

Boosting Your Health

Too much alcohol can bring on serious health problems:

  • Messing up your liver and digestion.
  • Causing heart problems and high blood pressure.[14]
  • Messing with your mental health, causing anxiety and depression.[15]
  • Making you forget things and increase your risk of dementia.
  • Becoming dependant on alcohol/ developing an alcohol dependency.[16],[17]
  • Increasing your risk of cancer.[18]

Lowering Your Cancer Risk

Yep, too much booze increases the chances of 8 different cancers:

  • Mouth and upper throat, larynx (voice box), and oesophagus (food pipe) cancers.
  • Breast/chest cancer.
  • Stomach, liver and bowel cancers.

The more you drink the greater the risk.[19],[20] There is no level of drinking that is completely cancer risk-free.

Feeling Better Overall

Cutting down on alcohol can help you feel better in many ways:

  • Less nasty hangovers or headaches.
  • Sleeping better at night.
  • Having more energy for fun stuff.
  • Being more focused for work or studies.
  • Keeping your immune system strong.
  • Achieving your fitness and nutrition goals.

Looking Good

Alcohol isn’t known for its beauty benefits – but drinking less can help you:

  • Get rid of redness or flushing.
  • Make your skin glow from the inside.
  • Reduce bloating / inflammation.
  • Focus on healthy habits.

Save Some Bucks

Booze costs money – think about what you could do with that cash!




Tips To Cut Down On Alcohol

Practical Ideas For Drinking Less:

  • Ask a trusted friend to help you stay accountable – think the opposite of a drinking buddy.
  • Keep track of your drinks- you might be surprised!
  • Download a drink-tracker app to help you.
  • Have a few booze-free days each week.
  • Reflect on where you want to be with your relationship with alcohol.
  • Set goals that feel realistic and actionable.
  • Try drinks with less or no alcohol. There are plenty of good alcohol-free beer and spirits at pubs these days!
  • Mix up your routine. Catch up with friends for a walk instead of at a pub.
  • Be mindful about situations that make you want to drink.
  • Build a support network.

Other strategies for cutting down on alcohol consumption:

  • If you don’t drink now, think about staying that way.
  • If you do, keep it to less than 10 drinks a week, 4 drinks a day.
  • Fit in at least 2 alcohol-free days every week.
  • Avoid binging – don’t save up your drinks for a big night.
  • Sip on low-alcohol drinks or mocktails.
  • Hydrate between drinks and stay in control.
  • For more tips on reducing or quitting, check out ACON’s Pivot Point and Drink Limits resources.



Getting Help With Alcohol Consumption

When you’re ready to cut down on alcohol, there’s support out there:

Important note: For some people, suddenly stopping drinking can make them feel physically and emotionally unwell. If you feel sick, sweaty or cannot sleep when trying to cut down on your drinking – you may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms and should see your doctor. If in doubt seek medical advice before you stop drinking.


Frequently Asked Questions