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New Cancer Society campaign sheds light on link between cancer and alcohol

Today, the Cancer Society of New Zealand launches a new campaign to highlight the link between alcohol and cancer risk.

Cancer Society Medical Director Dr George Laking: “Many people are aware that tobacco causes lung cancer. However, New Zealanders are typically unaware that alcohol (even small amounts) can increase the risk of developing at least seven cancers, including mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, breast, bowel and liver cancer. Due to its high energy content, alcohol can contribute to weight gain and indirectly increase the risk of weight-related cancers.”

Prior to the launch of this campaign, the Cancer Society surveyed over 800 people about their awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer and their support for alcohol regulations.

Some key findings:

  • More than a third of the respondents said ‘small regular use of alcohol is safe’ in terms of cancer risk.
  • Despite breast cancer being the leading cause of alcohol-related death in New Zealand, our survey found it was the least well-known alcohol-related cancer. 
  • More than 65% of the respondents supported government policy to protect children from alcohol advertising and sports sponsorship. 

“Many people are aware that tobacco causes lung cancer. However, there is still a huge stigma around the link between alcohol and cancer. There is really no safe level of alcohol consumption in relation to cancer. Essientially we are in the same place with alcohol that we were with tobacco 20 years age,” says Dr George Laking.

The Cancer Society believes there is an important role for the government regarding alcohol availability.

Despite being a Group 1 carcinogen, alcohol products have become normalised and glamourised through unrestricted marketing and can be purchased almost anywhere. Moreover, alcohol is extremely affordable. In New Zealand with beer, cask wine and bottled wine being sold for less than $1 per standard drink and spirits, Ready to Drinks (RTDs) and cider being sold at $1.20 or less per standard drink. Alcohol is currently sold for as low as 77c per standard drink.

“While a deterrent for tobacco is it’s cost, despite being in the same cancer-causing group, alcohol remains affordable. We support regulations and policies that address the affordability, outlet density and marketing of alcohol,” ends Dr George Laking.

For more information about the link between alcohol and cancer risk:

The Cancer Society encourages people to share their stories and views on this webpage to help us raise awareness and advocate for changes to alcohol policies.


Cancer Society Medical Director Dr George Laking is available for comments. To schedule an interview, please contact:

Linda Heerink
Communications Advisor Cancer Society of New Zealand
021 172 8036

About the Cancer Society of New Zealand
The Cancer Society of New Zealand is the country's leading organisation dedicated to reducing the incidence of cancer and ensuring the best cancer care for New Zealanders. We are committed to working with communities and decision makers by providing leadership and advocacy in cancer control, with core services in information and support, research and health promotion.