Association between alcohol and lung cancer in the alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene cancer prevention study in Finland

Cancer Causes Control. 1999 Jun;10(3):219-26. doi: 10.1023/a:1008911624785.


Objectives: We evaluated the association between alcohol intake and lung cancer in a trial-based cohort in Finland, the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study (ATBC Study).

Methods: During an average of 7.7 years of follow-up, 1059 lung cancer cases were diagnosed among the 27,111 male smokers with complete alcohol and dietary information. The relationship between alcohol and lung cancer was assessed in multivariate Cox regression models that adjusted for age, smoking, body mass index and intervention group.

Results: Nondrinkers, 11% of the study population, were at increased lung cancer risk compared to drinkers (RR = 1.2, 95% CI: 1.0-1.4), possibly due to the inclusion of ex-drinkers who had stopped drinking for health reasons. Among drinkers only, we observed no association between lung cancer and total ethanol or specific beverage (beer, wine, spirits) intake. We found no significant effect modification by level of smoking, dietary micronutrients or trial intervention group; however, for men in the highest quartile of alcohol intake, we observed a slight increase in risk for lighter smokers (<1 pack/day) and reduced risk among the heaviest smokers (>30 cigarettes/day).

Conclusions: We concluded that alcohol consumption was not a risk factor for lung cancer among male cigarette smokers, and its effect was not significantly modified by other factors, notably smoking history.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Assessment
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use
  • beta Carotene / therapeutic use


  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin E