Page last updated: Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Moderate consumption of wine and beer does not increase the risk of esophageal cancer
A Spanish study looked at the effect of tobacco smoking and alcohol drinking on esophageal cancer (EC) risk. The authors estimated the independent effect of different alcoholic beverages and type of tobacco smoking on the risk of EC and its main histological cell type (squamous cell carcinoma) in a hospital-based case-control study in a Mediterranean area of Spain.

Heavy alcohol drinking and tobacco smoking are strong and independent risk factors for esophageal cancer. Alcohol was found to be a potent risk factor with a clear dose-response relationship, particularly for esophageal squamous-cell cancer. Compared to never-drinkers, the risk for heaviest drinkers (greater than or equal to 75 g/day of pure ethanol) was 7.65 (95%CI, 3.16-18.49); and compared with never-smokers, the risk for heaviest smokers (greater than or equal to 30 cigarettes/day) was 5.07 (95%CI, 2.06-12.47).

However, consumption of wine and/or beer at levels of 1-24g/day was not found to increase the risk of EC. Whereas a strong positive trend was observed for all types of alcoholic beverages that included any combination of hard liquors with beer and/or wine.

The study shows that the risk of EC, and particularly the squamous cell type, is strongly associated with heavy alcohol drinking. The consumption of any combination of hard liquors seems to be harmful, whereas moderate consumption of wine or beer may not be. This may relate to the presence of certain antioxidant compounds found in wine but practically lacking in liquors. Tobacco smoking is also a clear risk factor, black more than blond.

Source: Esophageal cancer risk by type of alcohol drinking and smoking: a case-control study in Spain. Jesus Vioque et al. (The PANESOES Study Group) BMC Cancer 2008, 8:221doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-2

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