The association of alcohol consumption with coronary heart disease mortality and cancer incidence varies by smoking history

J Gen Intern Med. 2005 Jan;20(1):14-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2005.40129.x.


Objective: To evaluate the effect of alcohol on coronary heart disease (CHD), cancer incidence, and cancer mortality by smoking history.

Design/setting: A prospective, general community cohort was established with a baseline mailed questionnaire completed in 1986.

Participants: A population-based sample of 41,836 Iowa women aged 55-69 years.

Measurements: Mortality (total, cancer, and CHD) and cancer incidence outcomes were collected through 1999. Relative hazard rates (HR) were calculated using Cox regression analyses.

Main results: Among never smokers, alcohol consumption (> or =14 g/day vs none) was inversely associated with age-adjusted CHD mortality (HR, 0.40; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.19 to 0.84) and total mortality (HR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.55 to 0.92). Among former smokers, alcohol consumption was also inversely associated with CHD mortality (HR, 0.45; 95% CI, 0.23 to 0.88) and total mortality (HR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.62 to 0.97), but was positively associated with cancer incidence (HR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.03 to 1.51). Among current smokers, alcohol consumption was not associated with CHD mortality (HR, 1.05; 95% CI, 0.73 to 1.50) or total mortality (HR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.92 to 1.25), but was positively associated with cancer incidence (HR, 1.30; 95% CI, 1.10 to 1.54).

Conclusions: Health behavior counseling regarding alcohol consumption for cardioprotection should include a discussion of the lack of a decreased risk of CHD mortality for current smokers and the increased cancer risk among former and current smokers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Coronary Disease / mortality*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Iowa / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Smoking / epidemiology*