Objectives: Our goal was to provide current estimates of alcohol-attributable cancer mortality and years of potential life lost (YPLL) in the United States.
Methods: We used 2 methods to calculate population-attributable fractions. We based relative risks on meta-analyses published since 2000, and adult alcohol consumption on data from the 2009 Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System, 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and 2009-2010 National Alcohol Survey.
Results: Alcohol consumption resulted in an estimated 18,200 to 21,300 cancer deaths, or 3.2% to 3.7% of all US cancer deaths. The majority of alcohol-attributable female cancer deaths were from breast cancer (56% to 66%), whereas upper airway and esophageal cancer deaths were more common among men (53% to 71%). Alcohol-attributable cancers resulted in 17.0 to 19.1 YPLL for each death. Daily consumption of up to 20 grams of alcohol (≤ 1.5 drinks) accounted for 26% to 35% of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths.
Conclusions: Alcohol remains a major contributor to cancer mortality and YPLL. Higher consumption increases risk but there is no safe threshold for alcohol and cancer risk. Reducing alcohol consumption is an important and underemphasized cancer prevention strategy.