The latest critique from the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research considers three papers that looked at the link between alcohol consumption and cancer

The latest critique from the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research considers three papers that looked at the link between alcohol consumption and cancer

Three major papers on the association of alcohol consumption and cancer have recently been published. ISFAR forum members considered that all were well-done, and presented valuable new information on the topic.

While the key findings in each study are similar, each brings specific information on how alcohol relates to the risk of developing cancer.

Problems can occur when combining case-control studies with prospective cohort studies, as was done in one of the papers reviewed, as risk estimates are usually higher in the former type of study and control for potential confounding may be less complete. Further, it is especially important to consider the interaction between alcohol consumption and smoking for upper aero-digestive tract cancer, as was not always done. And, none of the studies covered in this critique emphasised the net effects of alcohol that, because of protective effects against cardiovascular disease, is almost always associated with lower total mortality among moderate drinkers than among abstainers.

In summary, the ISFAR forum considers that the three papers provide important data on one of very few lifestyle factors that have been shown to relate to the risk of cancer. And, cumulative research data clearly shows that heavy alcohol intake increases the risk of upper aero-digestive tract cancers and some other cancers.

Further, in these and many previous reports, even light alcohol consumption was associated with an increase in risk of breast cancer in women. Unfortunately, for most cancers, the threshold level of drinking associated with an increase in risk is not clearly defined.

Forum members agree with the conclusions of Klatsky et al, who stated: "At present, a possible increased cancer risk at moderate intake should enter into individual estimation of the overall risk-benefit equation for alcohol drinking, especially for young persons.

"For most persons older than age 50 years, the overall benefits of lighter drinking, especially the reduced risk of atherothrombotic disease, outweigh possible cancer risk."

To read the full critique, click here.

These critiques are published with the permission of The ISFAR.