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Special article Cancer risk based on alcohol consumption levels: a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis
Seunghee Jun1,2orcid , Hyunjin Park1,2orcid , Ui-Jeong Kim1orcid , Eun Jeong Choi1,3orcid , Hye Ah Lee4orcid , Bomi Park5orcid , Soon Young Lee6orcid , Sun Ha Jee7orcid , Hyesook Park1,2orcid
Epidemiol Health 2023;e2023092
DOI: https://doi.org/10.4178/epih.e2023092 [Accepted]
Published online: October 16, 2023
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1Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea, Seoul, Korea
2Graduate Program in System Health Science and Engineering, Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea
3National Cancer Control Institute, National Cancer Center, Goyang, Korea
4Clinical Trial Center, Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital, Seoul, Korea
5Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, Korea
6Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Ajou University School of Medicine, Suwon, Korea
7Institute for Health Promotion, Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, Graduate School of Public Health, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea
Corresponding author:  Hyesook Park,
Email: hpark@ewha.ac.kr
Received: 7 July 2023   • Revised: 29 August 2023   • Accepted: 13 September 2023

Alcohol consumption is a well-established risk factor for cancer. Despite extensive research into the relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer risk, the effect of light alcohol consumption on cancer risk remains a topic of debate. To contribute to this discourse, we conducted a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis.
Our systematic review aimed to investigate the associations between different levels of alcohol consumption and the risk of several cancer types. We focused on analyzing prospective associations using data from 139 cohort studies. Among them, 106 studies were included in the meta-analysis after a quantitative synthesis.
Our analysis did not find a significant association between light alcohol consumption and all-cause cancer risk (relative risk [RR]=1.02; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.99–1.04), but we observed a dose-response relationship. Light alcohol consumption was significantly associated with higher risks of esophageal, colorectal, and breast cancers. Light to moderate drinking was associated with elevated risks of esophageal, colorectal, laryngeal, and breast cancers. Heavy drinking was also found to contribute to the risk of stomach, liver, pancreas, and prostate cancers, thereby increasing the risk of almost all types of cancer. Additionally, women generally had lower cancer risks compared to men.
Our findings highlight that cancer risks extend beyond heavy alcohol consumption to include light alcohol consumption as well. These findings suggest that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption associated with cancer risk. Our results underscore the importance of public health interventions addressing alcohol consumption to mitigate cancer risks.

Epidemiol Health : Epidemiology and Health