Masayoshi Zaitsu (, Takumi Takeuchi, Yasuki Kobayashi and Ichiro Kawachi


Zaitsu, M., Takeuchi, T., Kobayashi, Y. and Kawachi, I. (2019), Light to moderate amount of lifetime alcohol consumption and risk of cancer in Japan. Cancer. doi:10.1002/cncr.32590

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Light to Moderate Amount of Lifetime Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Cancer in Japan

Research article



Even light to moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to increase cancer incidence. However, this association has not been well characterized in Japan.


Based on a nationwide, hospital‐based data set (2005‐2016), a multicenter case‐control study was conducted (63,232 cancer cases and 63,232 controls matched for sex, age, admission date, and admitting hospital). The total amount of lifetime alcohol consumption (alcohol use‐years) was recalled for each patient by multiplication of the daily amount of standardized alcohol use (alcohol units per day) and the duration of alcohol use (years). Odds ratios (ORs) were estimated for overall and specific cancer sites via conditional logistic regression with restricted cubic splines, with adjustments made for smoking, occupational class, and comorbidities. Lifetime abstainers served as the reference group.


Spline curves showed a dose‐response association with overall cancer risk: the minimum risk was at 0 alcohol use‐years, and the OR at 10 alcohol use‐years was 1.05. In comparison with lifetime abstainers, the OR for >0 to 20 alcohol use‐years was 1.06. Those who consumed 2 alcohol units or fewer per day had elevated odds for overall cancer risk across all duration‐of‐alcohol use categories. The same patterns were observed at light to moderate levels of alcohol use for most gastrointestinal/aerodigestive cancers as well as breast and prostate cancers. Analyses stratified by sex, different alcohol use/smoking behaviors, and occupational class mostly showed the same patterns for overall cancer incidence associated with light to moderate levels of alcohol use.


In Japan, even light to moderate alcohol consumption appears to be associated with elevated cancer risks.

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