The ISFAR considered research into the link between alcohol consumption and the risk of pancreatic cancer

The ISFAR considered research into the link between alcohol consumption and the risk of pancreatic cancer

The ISFAR reviewed a meta-analysis based on data from more than 4m subjects in prospective cohort studies, among whom 11,846 incident cases of pancreatic cancer were diagnosed.

With the lowest intake group (non-drinkers or occasional drinkers) as the referent group, the authors defined 'light' consumption as up to 12 grams per day (essentially one typical drink); 12g-24g per day as 'moderate', and = 24g per day as 'heavy' drinking.

The key results of the study were that, overall, neither light drinkers (RR = 0.97) nor moderate drinkers (RR = 0.98) showed an increase in risk of pancreatic cancer, while subjects classified as heavy drinkers had a slight increase (RR= 1.15, 95% CI 1.06 – 1.25). The increase in risk was due to heavy drinkers of liquor, as there was no significant increase in risk even for heavy drinkers of beer (RR = 1.08, CI 0.90 – 1.30) or wine (RR = 1.09, CI 0.79 -1.49).

ISFAR members considered this to be an excellent paper on the association between alcohol consumption and pancreatic cancer. The authors used appropriate methods and limited subjects to those in prospective cohort studies, which would tend to limit bias. The paper shows that the significant increase in risk occurred only among men, with no significant effect of alcohol being found among women.

Among the weaknesses of the study were that there was a mixture of lifetime abstainers and ex-drinkers included in the referent group, and the same cut-points for category of alcohol intake was used for both men and women, whereas drinking guidelines are generally lower for women than for men. Further, data on the pattern of drinking (regular versus binge) were not available.

This study showed no significant association with cancer risk for any level of consumption of beer or wine, which could relate to their lower concentration of abv of the beverage, to non-alcoholic substances (such as polyphenols, present in wine and beer), or even to different drinking practices among subjects consuming different beverages.

However, it should be remembered that heavy alcohol consumption of any alcoholic beverage type is associated with an increase in risk of many cancers. This study showed an increase in risk of pancreatic cancer among spirits drinkers consuming more than 24g a day.

To read the full critique, click here.

These critiques are published with the permission of The ISFAR.