Drinking alcohol can cause cancer. Not drinking alcohol is the best way to prevent many cancers.

Drinking alcohol can cause cancer. Reducing alcohol in our communities is an important area of work for the Cancer Society to minimise alcohol-related cancers, experienced more by Māori.

 Not drinking and/or drinking less alcohol throughout life can help protect against at least seven types of cancer including mouth, throat, voice box, oesophagus (food pipe), liver, bowel, breast (in women).

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

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

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:


  • 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.
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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:

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 
Last updated: March 30, 2021