Authors of an Italian analysis state that alcohol is capable of traversing the blood-brain barrier and is thus a possible risk factor for brain cancer. Several epidemiological studies have been published on the issue, but with inconsistent findings.
Researchers identified a total of 19 studies providing risk estimates for total alcohol or specific alcoholic beverages. Pooled estimates of the relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using random-effects models.
The pooled RR of brain cancer for alcohol drinkers versus non-drinkers was 0.97 (95% CI 0.82-1.15; based on 12 studies). Moderate (<2 drinks/day) and heavy alcohol drinkers had RRs of 1.01 (95% CI 0.81-1.25) and 1.35 (95% CI 0.85-2.15), respectively. With reference to specific alcoholic beverages, the RRs were 1.01 (95% CI 0.70-1.48) for wine, 0.96 (95% CI 0.82-1.12) for beer, and 1.20 (95% CI 1.01-1.42) for spirit consumption. The RRs for drinkers versus non-drinkers were 0.93 (95% CI 0.81-1.07) for glioma and 0.71 (95% CI 0.45-1.12) for meningioma.
The authors conclude that alcohol drinking does not appear to be associated with adult brain cancer, though a potential effect of high doses deserves further study.
Source: A meta-analysis of alcohol consumption and the risk of brain tumours. Galeone C, Malerba S, Rota M, Bagnardi V, Negri E, Scotti L, Bellocco R, Corrao G, Boffetta P, La Vecchia C, Pelucchi C. Ann Oncol. 2013 Feb;24(2):514-23.