Tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption and their interaction in the causation of hepatocellular carcinoma

Int J Cancer. 2000 Feb 15;85(4):498-502.


During a 4-year period from January 1995 to December 1998, blood samples and questionnaire data were obtained from 333 incident cases of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), as well as from 360 controls who were hospitalized for eye, ear, nose, throat or orthopedic conditions in Athens, Greece. Coded sera were tested for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and antibodies to hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) by third-generation enzyme immunoassays, and information on smoking habits and beverage consumption was obtained. We found a significant dose-response, positive association between smoking and HCC risk [>/= 2 packs per day, odds ratio (OR)=2.5]. This association was stronger in individuals without chronic infection with either HBV or HCV (>/= 2 packs per day, OR=2.8). Consumption of alcoholic beverages above a threshold of 40 glasses per week increased the risk of HCC (OR=1.9). We also found evidence of a strong, statistically significant and apparently super-multiplicative effect of heavy smoking and heavy drinking in the development of HCC (OR for both exposures=9.6). This interaction was particularly evident among individuals without either HBsAg or anti-HCV (OR for both exposures=10.9). Coffee intake was not positively associated with HCC risk, but the reverse could not be excluded for the subgroup of chronically infected individuals. In conclusion, tobacco smoking and heavy alcohol consumption are associated with increased risk of HCC, especially when these 2 exposures occur together.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / etiology
  • Coffee
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Greece / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens / blood
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies / blood
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Liver Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking*


  • Coffee
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies