Not drinking alcohol reduces your risk of many cancers.

There is no safe level of alcohol consumption in relation to cancer. Drinking any regular alcohol can increase cancer risk. The less you drink the lower the cancer risk.

Not drinking and/or drinking less alcohol throughout life can help protect against at least seven types of cancer including:

  • mouth cancer
  • throat cancer
  • voice box cancer
  • cancer of the oesophagus (food pipe)
  • liver cancer
  • bowel cancer
  • breast cancer (in women).

Statistics show that these cancers are experienced more by Māori.

Alcohol is high in energy (calories or kilojoules), so not drinking and/or drinking less alcohol can also help reduce weight-related cancers.

Low risk drinking guidelines and standard drinks

If you choose to drink alcohol, try reducing your consumption and keep within the Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines (for adults).

Reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than:

  • two standard drinks a day for women and no more than 10 standard drinks a week
  • three standard drinks a day for men and no more than 15 standard drinks a week
  • AND at least two alcohol-free days every week.

Reduce your risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking by drinking no more than:

  • four standard drinks for women on any single occasion
  • five standard drinks for men on any single occasion.

The above advice is based on 'standard drinks'.  One standard drink  contains 10 grams of pure alcohol. Produces of alcoholic drinks in New Zealand have to label how many standard drinks are in a bottle, can and cask. 

A standard drink is not as much as you think:

Low risk drinking advice Update white space

Reducing the availability and advertising of alcohol

Alcohol is cheap, widely marketed and easy to get in our neighbourhoods. Poorer suburbs often have more alcohol advertising and outlets selling alcohol than others.

The easy access to cheap alcohol affects alcohol-related cancer risk and the higher rates experienced by whānau, for example: 

  • Māori youth are exposed five times and Pacific three more to alcohol marketing in their everyday lives, compared to European youth.
  • Young people who have greater exposure to alcohol marketing are more likely to start drinking at an earlier age and engage in binge and hazardous drinking.

Reducing alcohol in our communities is an important area of work for the Cancer Society to reduce alcohol-related cancers. We encourage government to reduce the availability, affordability and marketing of alcohol.

What we do

Making alcohol more expensive, less convenient and available would help protect against alcohol-related cancer.

We work with other communities and organisations to encourage the government to protect whānau from alcohol-related cancer through:


  • raising awareness of the alcohol-related cancer risks
  • reducing the harm to our communities caused by alcohol
  • reducing alcohol-related inequities
  • advocating for alcohol control policies
  • preventing alcohol uptake among children and young people
  • supporting alcohol research and mass media campaigns 

What can you do?

If we all work together, we can create an environment where alcohol is less readily available in our communities to help lower cancer risk.

Everyone has a part to play in limiting alcohol where we work, live and play. Talk to your whānau, workplace, school or community about ways to take action to reduce alcohol. 

Reducing alcohol consumption where you live, work and play

We support policy and other actions to help reduce alcohol in your organisation or community:

Last updated: September 16, 2021