Light to moderate alcohol may reduce risks of cancer, CVD and mortality

Organisation: Position: Deadline Date: Location:

Light to moderate alcohol drinkers may have a lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease than heavy drinkers and those who abstain entirely, according to a United StatesChina study published in the BMC’s Nutrition Journal.

This is according to Kaitlyn D’Onofrio writing for Docwirenews on 11 February 2021. The researchers are from Pennsylvania State University, Boston University School of Medicine and Tufts University in the US, and the Department of Cardiology at Kailuan General Hospital in Tangshan, China.

The Chinese study stratified 83,732 adults who did not have cancer or CVD at baseline into six groups based on self-reported weekly alcohol consumption (in grams): 0, 1 to 25, 26 to 150, 151 to 350, 351 to 750, and >750. Medical records were used to determine incident cases of cancers, CVD, and mortality.

Median follow-up was 10 years, during which time incident cases of cancers (n=2,947), CVD (n=6,411), and deaths (n=6,646) were recorded. There was J-shaped correlation between alcohol consumption and all three outcomes, reports Docwirenews.

The lowest risk was observed among those who consumed 25 g alcohol/week – roughly two servings per week.

When adjusting for age, sex, lifestyle, socioeconomic status, and medication use, the hazard ratios for the outcomes, compared to drinking 1 to 25 g alcohol/week, were: for 0, 1.38 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.29-1.49); for 26 g to 150 g/week, 1.15 (95% CI, 1.04-1.27); for 151 g to 350 g/week, 1.22 (95%CI, 1.10-1.34); for 351 g to 750 g/week, 1.33 (95% CI, 1.21-1.46); and for >750 g/week, 1.57 (95% CI, 1.30-1.90).

Analyses were also performed based on amoking status, which appeared to affect outcomes: alcohol and smoking had a significant interaction (P for interaction <0.001) in terms of the three outcomes, but this interaction was not seen between alcohol and age, sex, and occupation.

Docwirenews continues: For these analyses, the >750 g/week patients were combined with the 351 g to 750 g/week group because the former group was too small. In never smokers and past smokers, the correlation between alcohol intake and cancer, CVD and death was stronger compared to in current smokers.

“Because alcohol consumption and smoking are common addictive behaviours and co-vary, smoking could mask the effect of alcohol alone on health status,” the researchers remarked.

“As expected, although the protective association of light-to-moderate alcohol to CVD, cancer and mortality was significant in both smokers and non-smokers, it was stronger in non-smokers. However, even for lung cancer, light alcohol consumption still showed lowest risk, compared to non-drinkers and heavy drinkers.”


Study details

Alcohol consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality: A prospective cohort study

Xinyuan Zhang, Yan Liu, Shanshan Li, Alice H Lichtenstein, Shuohua Chen, Muzi Na, Susan Veldheer, Aijun Xing, Yanxiu Wang, Shouling Wu and Xiang Gao

Author affiliations: Pennsylvania State University, Boston University School of Medicine and Tufts University in the United States, and Department of Cardiology at Kailuan General Hospital in Tangshan, China.

Published in Nutrition Journal, Volume 20, on 1 February 2021




Studies regarding whether light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) have generated mixed results. Further, few studies have examined the potential impact of alcohol consumption on diverse disease outcomes simultaneously.

We aimed to prospectively study the dose-response association between alcohol consumption and risk of CVD, cancer, and mortality.


This study included 83,732 adult Chinese participants, free of CVD and cancer at baseline. Participants were categorized into 6 groups based on self-report alcohol consumption: 0, 1–25, 26–150, 151–350, 351–750, and > 750 g alcohol/wk.

Incident cases of CVD, cancers, and mortality were confirmed by medical records. Hazard ratios (HRs) for the composite risk of these three outcomes, and each individual outcome, were calculated using Cox proportional hazard model.


During a median follow-up of 10.0 years, there were 6411 incident cases of CVD, 2947 cancers and 6646 deaths. We observed a J-shaped relation between alcohol intake and risk of CVD, cancer, and mortality, with the lowest risk at 25 g/wk., which is equivalent to ~ 2 servings/wk.

Compared to consuming 1–25 g/wk., the adjusted HR for composite outcomes was 1.38 (95% confidence interval (CI):1.29–1.49) for non-drinker, 1.15 (95% CI: 1.04–1.27) for 26–150 g/wk., 1.22 (95% CI: 1.10–1.34) for 151–350 g/wk., 1.33 (95% CI: 1.21–1.46) for 351–750 g/wk., and 1.57 (95% CI: 1.30–1.90) for > 750 g/wk., after adjusting for age, sex, lifestyle, social economic status, and medication use.


Light alcohol consumption at ~ 25 g/wk was associated with lower risk of CVD, cancer, and mortality than none or higher consumption in Chinese adults.


Docwirenews story – Drinking Alcohol May Reduce The Risks of Cancer, CVD, and Mortality (Open access)


Nutrition Journal article – Alcohol consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality: a prospective cohort study (Open access)




Alcohol-related deaths in Britain hit record high during pandemic – 16% rise in a year


US pandemic alcohol use – Age-differentiated and spurred by depression, anxiety


Alcohol consumption associated with nearly 5% of US cancer cases


A daily alcoholic drink and atrial fibrillation risk — Large 14-year study


Chicago research reveals ways to predict – and treat – alcohol use disorder



Receive Medical Brief's free weekly e-newsletter

Related Posts

Thank you for subscribing to MedicalBrief

MedicalBrief is Africa’s premier medical news and research weekly newsletter. MedicalBrief is published every Thursday and delivered free of charge by email to over 33 000 health professionals.

Please consider completing the form below. The information you supply is optional and will only be used to compile a demographic profile of our subscribers. Your personal details will never be shared with a third party.

Thank you for taking the time to complete the form.