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FAQ: Alcohol and Your Health

Experts answer questions about the impact of drinking on cancer risk, heart health, and more.

Is there a truly safe level of drinking alcohol?

Not a universally safe level, experts agree. "A safe level for one person may not be for another," Gapstur says.

"Nothing is absolutely safe for everybody," Klatsky says. But, he adds, "I think there is a sensible level of drinking.'' Sensible levels, though, must be tailored to the individual, Klatsky says.

And sensible doesn't mean "saving up'' whatever number of drinks is deemed reasonable per week and drinking them all at once, Gapstur says. Moderate doesn't mean ''save it up, put it in the bank," she says, referring to people who don't drink all week, then have multiple drinks at a single sitting on the weekends. That's binge drinking, and considered unhealthy.

Is it better, then, to drink only a little every day or moderately just a few times a week? Experts don't agree entirely. Rogg, for instance, advises his patients not drink more than two or three times a week. To be on the safe side, he suggests a glass of wine or other alcohol maybe twice a week.

But Klatsky says a healthier pattern for many people is to have a small amount nearly every day.

Reviewed on September 21, 2011

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