While there appears to be an increase in the risk of glioma tumours of the brain, very few lifestyle or genetic factors have been identified as being true ‘risk factors’ for the disease.

A recent research paper considered the link between reported alcohol consumption from multiple assessments over decades and the diagnosis of these tumours, combining data from subjects in large cohort studies of nurses and male health care providers.

Among the strengths of the research is that the data was collected as part of a prospective study, which is difficult to achieve in cancer epidemiology except with sizable cohorts. A total of 554 cases of glioma tumours were identified in these cohorts from a total sample of more than 200,000 subjects.

ISFAR reviewers agree with the authors’ conclusions, that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption does not increase the risk of glioma. Indeed, total alcohol consumption over many decades was found to reduce the risk.

For example, a cumulative average consumption of total alcohol of over 8 to 15 grams per day (equating to around 0.5-to-1 drink) was associated with a 25% lower risk of glioma when compared with the lowest category of intake (zero-to-0.5 g/day) for both men and women.

For consumers of over 15 grams per day – just over one typical drink – versus the referent group, the risk for women was further significantly reduced to HR = 0.61; for men, the HR estimate was 0.79, but not statistically significant. (Some previous cohort studies have suggested an increase in risk for heavy drinkers.) There were no differences according to type of alcoholic beverage.

For the subgroup of subjects with glioblastomas, findings were similar but less precise, due to smaller case counts.

The ISFAR concludes that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption does not increase the risk compared to no alcohol intake or very occasional drinking. In this well-conducted study, these levels of consumption showed a significant reduction in the risk of glioma tumours of the brain.

To read the full critique, click here.

These critiques are published with the permission of The International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research.