Alcohol as a risk factor


Alcohol is a modifiable risk factor. This means you can change your own risk through behaviour and lifestyle choices. Cutting down the amount you drink and how often can help to reduce your risk.


Whether or not there is a direct link between alcohol and pancreatic cancer is uncertain. However, reducing how much alcohol you drink reduces the chances of developing diseases which make pancreatic cancer more likely.

See the NHS website on health risks caused by alcohol for more information.

Why is alcohol relevant to pancreatic cancer?

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol regularly can increase your chances of pancreatic cancer. The link between heavy and repeated alcohol use and pancreatic cancer is becoming increasingly clear. Alcohol damages cells in the pancreas and causes it to malfunction in its role in digestion. Repeated heavy drinking is linked to type two diabetes, obesity and pancreatitis. Alcohol intake is also associated with smoking (social smoking). All of which increase your likelihood of pancreatic cancer.


Excessive and regular alcohol consumption is one of the main causes of chronic pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can increase your chances of pancreatic cancer. Additionally, stopping drinking alcohol leads to the reductions in risk of acute pancreatitis, and therefore the development of chronic pancreatitis. Research is needed to investigate whether alcohol cessation reduces the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Type 2 diabetes

Large consumption of alcohol is also noted as increasing your likelihood for having type 2 diabetes.

What is a high consumption of alcohol?

The NHS states that regularly drinking 14 units or more a week presents you with health risks.

How much is 14 units?

Visit for more information about the recommended consumption of alcohol.

What does one unit of alcohol look like?

How can I cut down the amount I drink?

It’s advised to not drink more than 14 units and having several completely alcohol-free days during the week.

Tips include pouring smaller amounts into your glass, and when sharing a bottle of wine pour it yourself so you can be more aware of how much your drinking. You can also choose alcohol free substitutes like mocktails and purchase alcohol free beer and wine

Visit for tips on how to reduce your alcohol intake.

See other risk factors

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Information Product No. | Published: 15/03/2018 | Last Updated: 21/02/2019 | Next Review Due: 15/03/2021