Alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk in Japan: A pooled analysis of eight population-based cohort studies

Int J Cancer. 2021 Jun 1;148(11):2736-2747. doi: 10.1002/ijc.33478. Epub 2021 Feb 10.


Although alcohol consumption is reported to increase the incidence of breast cancer in European studies, evidence for an association between alcohol and breast cancer in Asian populations is insufficient. We conducted a pooled analysis of eight large-scale population-based prospective cohort studies in Japan to evaluate the association between alcohol (both frequency and amount) and breast cancer risk with categorization by menopausal status at baseline and at diagnosis. Estimated hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals were calculated in the individual cohorts and combined using random-effects models. Among 158 164 subjects with 2 369 252 person-years of follow-up, 2208 breast cancer cases were newly diagnosed. Alcohol consumption had a significant association with a higher risk of breast cancer in both women who were premenopausal at baseline (regular drinker compared to nondrinker: HR 1.37, 1.04-1.81, ≥23 g/d compared to 0 g/d: HR 1.74, 1.25-2.43, P for trend per frequency category: P = .017) and those who were premenopausal at diagnosis (≥23 g/d compared to 0 g/d: HR 1.89, 1.04-3.43, P for trend per frequency category: P = .032). In contrast, no significant association was seen in women who were postmenopausal at baseline or at diagnosis, despite a substantial number of subjects and long follow-up period. Our results revealed that frequent and high alcohol consumption are both risk factors for Asian premenopausal breast cancer, similarly to previous studies in Western countries. The lack of a clear association in postmenopausal women in our study warrants larger investigation in Asia.

Keywords: alcohol; breast cancer; cohort study; pooled analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Premenopause*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors