1. Acetaldehyde can cause cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

2. The more acetaldehyde you are exposed to, the higher your cancer risk.

3. 1 in 2 adults and 1 in 3 youth in the United States were exposed to acetaldehyde in the past month because they drank alcohol.

What Is Acetaldehyde?

When you drink alcohol, your body breaks it down into a chemical called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde damages your DNA and prevents your body from repairing the damage. DNA is the cell’s “instruction manual” that controls a cell’s normal growth and function. When DNA is damaged, a cell can begin growing out of control and create a cancer tumor. A toxic buildup of acetaldehyde can increase your cancer risk.

The Link Between Alcohol and Cancer May Surprise You

At least six cancers are linked to alcohol use: mouth and throat, voice box, esophagus, liver, colon and rectum, and breast (in women).

All types of alcoholic drinks―even red and white wine, craft beers, and cocktails―are linked with cancer. The more you drink, the higher your cancer risk. But it’s not just excessive drinkers at risk. For example, with each 10 grams of pure alcohol (less than one drink a day), a woman’s risk for breast cancer goes up 5 percent before menopause, and 9 percent after menopause.

The less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of cancer. If you choose to drink, drink no more than one drink a day (for women) or no more than two drinks a day (for men).

Secret Ways to Lower Your Cancer Risk

While there is no proven way to completely prevent cancer, limiting the amount of alcohol you drink is one of the most important things you can do to lower your risk of getting cancer. There are other things you can do, too:

This article was originally published on April 2, 2018, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is republished with permission.