Alcohol consumption and the risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma: a systematic review

Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(1):1-15. doi: 10.1080/01635580802372633.


The evidence concerning the influence of alcohol drinking on the risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) has yielded intriguing findings but has lacked a clear-cut interpretation due to inconsistencies. To unify this body of evidence, we performed a systematic review. With funding and using a protocol developed by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), 15 bibliographic databases were searched for epidemiological studies that reported a measure of association between alcoholic beverage consumption and NPC. Pooled odds ratios (ORs) for highest-vs.-lowest categories of total alcohol intake was obtained by using an inverse-variance weighted random-effects model. A dose-response trend was examined in models using generalized least square estimation. The search identified 14 case-control studies from 5 countries. For total alcohol intake, the pooled ORs in a comparison of the highest to the lowest category was 1.33 (95% CI: = 1.09-1.62) in 11 studies. Data from 6 studies indicated a J-shape dose-response trend, with NPC risk decreasing with up to 15 drinks/wk and increasing with higher intake. Fewer data were available to assess the associations between NPC and intake of beer, wine, and spirits. The potential J-shaped dose-response trend suggests a reduced risk of NPC related to the light alcohol drinking, an observation that warrants further study. Considered in total, the quantitative summaries of the case-control evidence suggest that heavy alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of NPC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcoholic Beverages / adverse effects
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors