Background: Epidemiological studies have suggested an inconsistent relationship between alcohol drinking and risk of all cancer mortality. As far as we know, no meta-analysis has been conducted to explore this issue.
Patients and methods: We carried out a PubMed search to find relevant articles published before April 2012 in English. Categorical and dose-response meta-analyses were conducted to identify the impact of alcohol drinking on all cancer mortality. Potential sources of heterogeneity were detected by meta-regression and stratification analyses. Sensitivity and cumulative meta-analyses were also carried out.
Results: Eighteen independent cohort studies met the inclusion criteria. Compared with non/occasional drinkers, the pooled relative risks (RRs) were 0.91 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.89-0.94] for light, 1.02 (95% CI 0.99-1.06) for moderate, and 1.31 (95% CI 1.23-1.39) for heavy drinkers. Former drinkers presented a higher risk (RR = 1.32, 95% CI 1.15-1.50) than current drinkers (RR = 1.06, 95% CI 0.98-1.16). There was a J-shaped relationship between all cancer mortality and alcohol consumption in males but not in females.
Conclusions: This meta-analysis confirms the health hazards of heavy drinking (≥50 g/day) and benefits of light drinking (≤12.5 g/day). Large-sample, well-designed, prospective epidemiological studies, especially on heavy drinking among women, should be developed in future.