Alcohol consumption and lung cancer risk: A pooled analysis from the International Lung Cancer Consortium and the SYNERGY study

Cancer Epidemiol. 2019 Feb;58:25-32. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2018.10.006. Epub 2018 Nov 13.


Background: There is inadequate evidence to determine whether there is an effect of alcohol consumption on lung cancer risk. We conducted a pooled analysis of data from the International Lung Cancer Consortium and the SYNERGY study to investigate this possible association by type of beverage with adjustment for other potential confounders.

Methods: Twenty one case-control studies and one cohort study with alcohol-intake data obtained from questionnaires were included in this pooled analysis (19,149 cases and 362,340 controls). Adjusted odds ratios (OR) or hazard ratios (HR) with corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated for each measure of alcohol consumption. Effect estimates were combined using random or fixed-effects models where appropriate. Associations were examined for overall lung cancer and by histological type.

Results: We observed an inverse association between overall risk of lung cancer and consumption of alcoholic beverages compared to non-drinkers, but the association was not monotonic. The lowest risk was observed for persons who consumed 10-19.9 g/day ethanol (OR vs. non-drinkers = 0.78; 95% CI: 0.67, 0.91), where 1 drink is approximately 12-15 g. This J-shaped association was most prominent for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). The association with all lung cancer varied little by type of alcoholic beverage, but there were notable differences for SCC. We observed an association with beer intake (OR for ≥20 g/day vs nondrinker = 1.42; 95% CI: 1.06, 1.90).

Conclusions: Whether the non-monotonic associations we observed or the positive association between beer drinking and squamous cell carcinoma reflect real effects await future analyses and insights about possible biological mechanisms.

Keywords: Alcohol; Lung cancer; Pooled analysis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / epidemiology*
  • Adenocarcinoma / etiology
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcoholic Beverages / adverse effects
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / etiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires