Association of quantity of alcohol and frequency of consumption with cancer mortality

October 20, 2011

A paper from the National Institutes of Health in the United States has evaluated the separate and combined effects of the frequency of alcohol consumption and the average quantity of alcohol drunk per occasion and how that relates to mortality risk from individual cancers as well as all cancers. The analysis is based on repeated administrations of the National Health Interview Survey in the US, assessing more than 300,000 subjects who suffered over 8,000 deaths from cancer. The research reports on total cancer deaths and deaths from lung, colorectal, prostate, and breast cancers.

The overall message of this analysis is that light to does not appear to increase the risk of all-site cancer (and light drinking was shown in this study to be associated with a significant decrease in risk). Similarly, light to moderate consumption was not associated with site-specific cancers of the lung, colorectum, breast, or prostate.

As quantity consumed increased from 1 drink on drinking days to 3 or more drinks on drinking days (US drinks are 14g), risk of all-site increased by 22% among all participants. For total alcohol consumption (frequency x quantity), the data indicate a significant reduction in the risk of all-site cancers (RR=0.87, CI 0.80-0.94). Moderate drinking consistently shows no effect in the analysis, and only heavier drinking was associated with an increase in all-site . For site-specific cancers, an increase in risk of lung cancer was seen for heavier drinkers, with a tendency for less cancer among light drinkers. There was no evidence of an effect of total alcohol consumption on colorectal, prostate, or .

The authors excluded non-drinkers in a second analysis in which they used categories of usual daily quantity and of frequency of consumption in an attempt to investigate their separate effects. For all-site cancer and for lung cancer, these results again show an increase in risk only for drinkers reporting greater amounts of alcohol. The data also show an increase in cancer risk from more frequent drinking among women but not among men. For colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer, there is no clear pattern of an increase in risk from quantity of alcohol consumed. For frequency of drinking, again there is a suggestion of an increase in with more frequent drinking, although the trends are not statistically significant.

Heavier drinking (three drinks or more per occasion) is known to be associated with a large number of adverse health effects, including certain cancers, as was shown in this study. When considering cancer, should not be considered in isolation, but in conjunction with, other lifestyle behaviours (especially smoking when considering lung cancer). We agree with the authors that both quantity and frequency of consumption need to be considered when evaluating the relation of alcohol to cancer; further, beverage-specific effects need to be further evaluated.

Explore further: Relation of alcohol consumption to colorectal cancer

More information: Rosalind A. Breslow RA, Chen CM, Graubard BI, Mukamal KJ. Prospective study of alcohol consumption quantity and frequency and cancer-specific mortality in the US population. Am J Epidemiol 2011; DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwr210

Related Stories

Relation of alcohol consumption to colorectal cancer

September 13, 2011
A meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies on the association of alcohol consumption with colorectal cancer was carried out, based on 22 studies from Asia, 2 from Australia, 13 from Western Europe, and 24 from North ...

The role that alcohol drinking may play in the risk of cancer

April 19, 2011
A large group of distinguished scientists published a very detailed and rather complex paper describing the association between alcohol consumption and cancer in the BMJ.

The effects of smoking and alcohol use on risk of upper aero-digestive cancers

August 2, 2011
Upper aero-digestive tract cancers (UADT), especially those of the oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx, are often referred to as alcohol-related cancers as it has been shown repeatedly that heavy drinkers, in particular, are ...

Increase in risk of certain gastric cancer from heavy drinking

May 18, 2011
The results from a very well-done meta-analysis support other data generated on the risk of alcohol consumption and gastric cancer – that is – that the risk may be real for heavy alcohol consumption but not for ...

Role of alcohol intake and smoking on upper aerodigestive cancers

September 6, 2011
This paper provides an extensive analysis of the proportion of the risk of upper aero-digestive tract (UADT) cancers in the population (the population attributable risk) that may be due to alcohol consumption and/or smoking. ...

Recommended for you

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

App lets patients work alone or with others to prevent, monitor, and reverse chronic disease

July 24, 2017
Lack of patient adherence to treatment plans is a lingering, costly problem in the United States. But MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is proving that regular interventions from a patient's community of supporters can greatly ...

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.