Background: Gastric cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer in the world. Epidemiological findings on alcohol use in relation to gastric cancer remain controversial. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of alcohol consumption on the risk of gastric cancer.
Methods: The association between alcohol intake and the risk of gastric cancer was examined in a population-based cohort of 7,150 men in Kaunas, Lithuania, who were enrolled during 1972-1974 or 1976-1980. After up to 30 years of follow-up, 185 gastric cancer cases were identified. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (95% CI). The attained age was used as a time-scale.
Results: After adjustment for smoking, education level and body mass index, the HR of gastric cancer was 2.00 (95% CI: 1.04-3.82) for the highest alcohol consumption frequency (2-7 times per week) compared with occasional drinking (a few times per year) and 1.90 (95% CI: 1.13-3.18) for ≥ 100.0 g ethanol/week versus 0.1-9.9 g ethanol/week. A stronger effect of alcohol consumption on gastric cancer risk was observed during the second half of the study (1993-2008). In the analysis of gastric cancer risk by alcoholic beverage type, all beverages were included simultaneously in the model. The multivariate HR for men who consumed ≥ 0.5 litre of wine per occasion (compared with those who consumed <0.5 litre) was 2.95 (95% CI: 1.30-6.68). Higher consumption of beer or vodka was not statistically significantly associated with gastric cancer risk. After adjustment for smoking, education level, body mass index and ethanol, we found no excess risk of gastric cancer in association with total acetaldehyde intake.
Conclusions: This study supports a link between alcohol consumption (primarily from ethanol) and the development of gastric cancer in the Lithuanian population. Although an association with heavy wine consumption was observed, the effect of exposure to acetaldehyde on the development of gastric cancer in this cohort was not confirmed. Further research is needed to provide a more detailed evaluation of alcohol drinking and gastric cancer risk.