The potential for reducing alcohol consumption to prevent esophageal cancer morbidity in Asian heavy drinkers: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Esophagus. 2022 Jan;19(1):39-46. doi: 10.1007/s10388-021-00892-4. Epub 2021 Oct 24.


Alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for esophageal cancer. In Asia, heavy drinkers are considered to have a higher risk of esophageal cancer than nondrinkers and light drinkers. However, no study has shown an association between alcohol reduction and the morbidity of esophageal cancer in Asian heavy drinkers. Therefore, this study investigated the significance of reducing alcohol consumption to prevent esophageal cancer in Asian heavy drinkers by conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis. The MEDLINE (PubMed) and ICHUSHI (Japana Centra Revuo Medicina) databases were searched from January 1995 to December 2020. The hazard ratio (HR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) were calculated using a random-effects model. I2 statistics were used to detect heterogeneity. This study included 21 articles in the qualitative synthesis. Light drinkers and heavy drinkers were categorized based on alcohol consumption amount as ≤ 25 ethanol g/day and ≥ 66 ethanol g/day, respectively, as described in many previous studies, and five cohort studies were eligible for this meta-analysis. The HR of esophageal cancer among heavy drinkers versus nondrinkers was 4.18 (95% CI 2.34-7.47, I2 = 74%). On the other hand, the HR of esophageal cancer among light drinkers was 1.82 compared with nondrinkers (95% CI 1.57-2.10, I2 = 0%). Heavy drinkers have a higher esophageal cancer incidence than light drinkers and nondrinker. It is possible that alcohol reduction may decrease the risk of esophageal cancer in Asian heavy drinkers.

Keywords: Abstinence; Alcohol consumption; Esophageal cancer; Heavy drinkers; Sobriety.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking* / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking* / epidemiology
  • Esophageal Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Esophageal Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors