Three alcoholic drinks a day can cause liver cancer

Today, World Cancer Research Fund International publishes global research which finds strong evidence that consuming approximately three or more alcoholic drinks a day causes liver cancer

25 March 2015

The finding provides the clearest indication to date of how many drinks actually cause liver cancer.

Published as part of the Continuous Update Project – our ongoing programme to analyse global research on how diet, nutrition, physical activity and weight affect cancer risk and survival – the report analyses worldwide research to find out which factors increase or decrease the risk of developing liver cancer.

The systematic review analysed 34 studies from around the world - comprising over eight million (8,153,000) men and women and 24,600 cases of liver cancer – and also found strong evidence that:

  1. Being overweight or obese is a cause of liver cancer. This finding takes the number of cancers linked to being overweight or obese to 10 for the first time. 
  2. Foods contaminated by aflatoxins (produced by a fungus that contaminates inappropriately stored food) cause liver cancer.
  3. Drinking coffee decreases the risk of liver cancer. Further research is needed on coffee to establish how much and what kind of coffee should be consumed before any advice is offered on this finding.

The report’s findings support our current Cancer Prevention Recommendations:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight.
  2. It's best to avoid alcohol - but if you do drink, limit consumption to a maximum of 2 drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

Liver cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer worldwide, accounting for 746,000 deaths around the world in 2012.

Read the full details on all the report's findings and conclusions and the blog by Professor Ricardo Uauy, one of the panel of independent scientists that reviewed the research.