Carcinogenicity of Alcoholic Beverages
In February, 2007, 26 scientists from 15 countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, to reassess the carcinogenicity of alcoholic beverages and of ethyl carbamate (urethane), a frequent contaminant of fermented foods and beverages. These assessments will be published as volume 96 of the IARC Monographs. This paper reports on the assessment of alcoholic beverages.
Overall the scientists of the Working Group confirmed that alcoholic beverages are “carcinogenic to humans” (Group 1), and concluded that the occurrence of malignant tumors of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectal, and female breast is causally related to alcohol consumption.
For renal-cell cancer and non Hodgkin lymphoma the Working Group concluded that there is “evidence suggesting lack of carcinogenicity” for alcohol use.
The addition of breast cancer and colorectal cancer, two of the most common cancers worldwide, to the list of cancers causally related to alcohol consumption suggests that the proportion of cancers attributable to alcohol consumption is higher than previously estimated. Because these associations were generally noted with different types of alcoholic beverage, and in view of the carcinogenicity of ethanol in animals, the Working Group also classified ethanol in alcoholic
beverages as “carcinogenic to humans” (Group 1).
The Working Group agreed that the substantial mechanistic evidence in humans deficient in aldehyde dehydrogenase indicates that acetaldehyde derived from the metabolism of ethanol in alcoholic beverages contributes to causing malignant esophageal tumors.