Alcohol consumption and risk of prostate cancer: The Harvard Alumni Health Study

Int J Epidemiol. 2001 Aug;30(4):749-55. doi: 10.1093/ije/30.4.749.


Background: Although many studies suggest that consumption of alcohol increases the risk of several site-specific cancers, the evidence remains unclear for prostate cancer. Few data exist on beverage-specific associations as well as lifetime patterns of alcohol consumption and prostate cancer risk.

Methods: We prospectively followed 7612 Harvard alumni (mean age 66.6 years) from 1988 through 1993, during which 366 cases of incident prostate cancer occurred. Self-reported alcohol consumption was assessed at baseline from wine, beer, and liquor intake. Previous assessments during college and in 1977 were also available.

Results: Overall, the mean total alcohol consumption in 1988 was 123.1 g/week, of which 28.6% was from wine, 15.8% from beer, and 55.6% from liquor. Compared to men reporting almost never drinking alcohol in 1988, the multivariate relative risks (95% CI) for 1 drink/month to < 3 drinks/week, 3 drinks/week to < 1 drink/ day, 1 to < 3 drinks/day, and > or = 3 drinks/day were 1.33 (0.88-2.01), 1.65 (1.12-2.44), 1.85 (1.29-2.64), and 1.33 (0.86-2.05), respectively. Wine or beer consumption was unassociated with prostate cancer; however, moderate liquor consumption was associated with a significant 61-67% increased risk of prostate cancer (P, non-linear trend < 0.001). Men initiating alcohol consumption between 1977 and 1988 had a twofold increased risk of prostate cancer compared to men with almost no alcohol consumption at both times.

Conclusions: In contrast to the majority of previous studies, we found a positive association between moderate alcohol consumption and the risk of prostate cancer. Liquor, but not wine or beer, consumption was positively associated with prostate cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology