Analysis

International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research Critique 148: Alcohol and Liver Cancer

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Hepatic cirrhosis frequently precedes the development of liver cancer, and excessive alcohol consumption is known to be one cause of cirrhosis.

The latest critique from ISFAR considers research into alcohol consumption and its relationship to liver cancer

The latest critique from ISFAR considers research into alcohol consumption and its relationship to liver cancer

The investigators in a recent study carried out a meta-analysis to evaluate the association of alcohol consumption with liver cancer. They used data from 19 prospectively studied cohorts with a large total number of cases: 4,445 incident cases and 5,550 deaths from liver cancer.

The analysis from this large study indicates that liver cancer is related to heavier alcohol intake, but not to light-to-moderate drinking (with the latter defined in this study as less than three typical drinks per day). The authors conclude: “This systematic review suggests a moderate detrimental role of consumption of three or more alcoholic drinks per day on liver cancer, and a lack of association with moderate drinking.”

Forum reviewers considered this to be a well-done analysis with appropriate statistical methodology. While the authors were unable to test the potential effects of pattern of drinking (regular moderate versus binge drinking), the type of beverage (wine or other beverages), or potential effects of obesity (with the latter being a key factor associated with the most common type of liver disease in the US, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), the results of this study support most other research indicating that more than moderate drinking increases the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer.

However, the findings of no effect from what the authors considered “moderate” drinking (< 3 drinks/day, which exceeds the guidelines for most countries), also fits with another recent meta-analysis showing no increase in risk of liver cancer to be associated with light drinking.  

There are many adverse health effects of heavy alcohol consumption. Liver cirrhosis, which frequently precedes the development of liver cancer, is one such potential outcome. On the other hand, this study suggests that moderate alcohol intake does not increase the risk of liver cancer.

To read the full critique, click here.

These critiques are published with the permission of The ISFAR.


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