Page last updated: March 8, 2017
Alcohol and lung cancer risk among never smokers

It is not clear whether alcohol consumption is associated with lung cancer risk. The relationship is likely to be confounded by smoking, complicating the interpretation of previous studies. A team of researchers examined the association of alcohol consumption and lung cancer risk in a large pooled international sample, minimising potential confounding of tobacco use by restricting analyses to never smokers. The study included 22 case-control and cohort studies with a total of 2,548 never-smoking lung cancer patients and 9,362 never-smoking controls from North America, Europe and Asia within the International Lung Cancer Consortium (ILCCO) and SYNERGY Consortium.

Alcohol consumption was inversely associated with lung cancer risk with evidence most strongly supporting lower risk for light and moderate drinkers relative to non-drinkers (>0-4.9g per day: OR=0.80, 95% CI=0.70-0.90; 5-9.9g per day: OR=0.82, 95% CI=0.69-0.99; 10-19.9g per day: OR=0.79, 95% CI=0.65-0.96).

Inverse associations were found for consumption of wine and liquor, but not beer. The results indicate that alcohol consumption is inversely associated with lung cancer risk, particularly among subjects with low to moderate consumption levels, and among wine and liquor drinkers, but not beer drinkers. Although the results should have no relevant bias from the confounding effect of smoking the research the authors cannot preclude confounding by other factors. Confounding in relation to the non-drinker reference category may be of particular importance, they state.

Source: Alcohol and lung cancer risk among never smokers: a pooled analysis from the International Lung Cancer Consortium and the SYNERGY Study. Fehringer G; Brenner DR; Zhang ZF; Lee YA; Matsuo K; Ito H; Lan Q; et al International Journal of Cancer. Published early online 24 January 2017.

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