A substantial number of cancer cases in both men and women can be attributed to excess alcohol consumption, according to a study published online April 7 in the BMJ.
Madlen Schütze, from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke, and colleagues evaluated the annual incidence of total and specific alcohol-related cancers in eight European countries. Data were collected from 109,118 male and 254,870 female participants, aged 37 to 70 years, of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study. All the participants were cancer-free at baseline. Based on measurements of alcohol consumption, and consumption higher than the recommended limit, the researchers estimated the annual rate of alcohol-attributable cancer, by country and sex.
The investigators found that 10 percent of total cancers in men, and 3 percent in women, were attributable to former and current alcohol consumption, based on an assumption of causality between alcohol consumption and cancer. The incidence varied for different cancers: 44 and 25 percent for upper aerodigestive tract, 33 and 18 percent for liver, and 17 and 4 percent for colorectal cancer, respectively, for men and women, and 5 percent for female breast cancer. In 2008, 33,037 of 178,578 alcohol-related cancers in men and 17,470 of 397,043 in women were associated with alcohol consumption higher than the recommended upper limit.
"If we assume causality between alcohol consumption and cancer, about 10 percent of all cancer cases in men and 3 percent of all cancer cases in women are attributable to current and former alcohol consumption," the authors write.