Minimising Alcohol-related Harm

Make informed choice

Alcohol is a cancer-causing agent(Note). Concerning cancer-causing effect, there exists no threshold of which alcohol can be consumed safely. On the other hand, controversy exists over the protective effect of alcohol on heart health. To improve heart health, you have many harmless and proven effective options, e.g. healthy eating, active living and no smoking. More importantly, these simple measures, in addition, bring you many different health benefits.

Generally speaking, alcohol-related harm expresses as a continuum, that is, the more you drink, the higher the chance you are to get alcohol-related harm.
So if you do not drink at all, do not start drinking with the intent of improving health.
If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, limit your drink to minimise alcohol-related harm.


Alcohol is classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization, because there has been sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of alcoholic beverages causes cancers of oral cavity, pharynx (excluding nasopharynx), larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum, and female breasts.


    To date, the World Health Organization has not issued drinking guidelines. There is so far no evidence to support the effectiveness of the use of drinking guidelines in reducing alcohol-related harm. Nevertheless, different drinking guidelines are developed by some countries to advise their people to limit their drink below certain levels which is considered as relatively low-risk drinking behaviour. There is no safe or harmless level for drinking alcoholic beverages.

    On alcohol and health, the Department of Health specifically stresses on the importance of “making informed choices”, which enables individuals to choose drinking or not after fully understanding the risk of alcohol use, thus minimising alcohol-related harm.

    Alcohol causes cancer, and should not be used for improving health.

    If you don’t drink, do not start drinking.


    If you choose to drink, limit your drinking after knowing the risk to minimise alcohol harm:
    Men should not
    Women should not
    Drink more than
    2 alcohol units? a day
    drink more than
    1 alcohol unit? a day
    Please note this is only a lower risk drinking, and there is no safety level for drinking.


    For your health and lowering risk of cancers, you can cut down gradually and cease altogether.

    No binge-drinking at any time.


    People and situations to refrain from drinking:
    Feeling unwell,
    depress or tired
    Engaged in tasks that take
    risk or require skills,
    e.g. operating
    machinery or a vehicle
    Previous history of alcohol
    or drug dependence
    Co-existing health problems,
    e.g. gout, liver disease,
    heart disease, hypertension
    On medication
    Remark: If you are breastfeeding, alcohol drinking is not recommended. It is because alcohol disrupts breast milk flow. More importantly, alcohol passes through breast milk and impairs your child’s psychomotor development and behaviour. If you are breastfeeding but need to drink alcohol on special occasions, make sure you limit your drinks to a small amount and avoid breastfeeding your baby within 2 hours. Consult your doctor if in doubt.