Background: The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that alcohol consumption is related to colorectal cancer (CRC). However, several issues remain unresolved, including quantification of the association for light (≤1 drink/day) and moderate (2-3 drinks/day) alcohol drinking, investigation of the dose-response relationship, and potential heterogeneity of effects by sex, colorectal site, and geographical region.
Methods: Twenty-seven cohort and 34 case-control studies presenting results for at least three categories of alcohol intake were identified from a PubMed search of articles published before May 2010. The summary relative risks (RRs) were estimated by the random effects model. Second-order fractional polynomials and random effects meta-regression models were used for modeling the dose-risk relation.
Results: The RRs were 1.21 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.13-1.28] for moderate and 1.52 (95% CI 1.27-1.81) for heavy (≥4 drinks/day) alcohol drinking. The RR for moderate drinkers, compared with non-/occasional drinkers, was stronger for men (RR = 1.24, 95% CI 1.13-1.37) than for women (RR = 1.08, 95% CI 1.03-1.13; P(heterogeneity) = 0.02). For heavy drinkers, the association was stronger in Asian studies (RR = 1.81, 95% CI 1.33-2.46; P(heterogeneity) = 0.04). The dose-risk analysis estimated RRs of 1.07 (95% CI 1.04-1.10), 1.38 (95% CI 1.28-1.50), and 1.82 (95% CI 1.41-2.35) for 10, 50, and 100 g/day of alcohol, respectively.
Conclusions: This meta-analysis provides strong evidence for an association between alcohol drinking of >1 drink/day and colorectal cancer risk.