Heavy alcohol intake does not raise the risk of two most common types of oesophageal cancer, according to a study published online in Gut.
Gullet cancer is the sixth leading cause of cancer death
worldwide and occurs as one of two main types: squamous cell carcinoma or
But while rates of gullet adenocarcinoma have soared in many
Western countries over the past three decades, those of squamous cell carcinoma
have been falling. The squamous cell variety is strongly linked to alcohol
The authors pooled data from 11 international studies,
involving 15,000 participants and 4,600 cases in the Barrett's Esophagus and
Esophageal Adenocarcinoma Consortium (BEACON) on both types of gullet cancer,
plus another arising at the junction of the lower gullet and the stomach
(oesophagogastric junction or OGJA for short).
Heavy drinkers - seven or more alcoholic drinks a day - were
more than 9.5 times as likely to develop oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma as
But the authors found no evidence linking this level of
alcohol consumption, or, for that matter, any particular type of alcohol, to heightened
risk of either oesophageal adenocarcinoma or OGJA.
And light drinkers - half to one unit of alcohol daily - had
a lower risk of these gullet cancers than non-drinkers, although low alcohol
consumption could simply reflect other aspects of a healthy lifestyle, or
chance, say the authors.
"Our results for [oesophageal adenocarcinoma] and OGJA stand
in remarkable contrast to results for [oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma] in
this and previously published studies," comment the authors.
The findings suggest that the risk factors for gullet cancer vary according to the type of disease, they say, adding that other research suggests that weight, smoking, and infection with Helicobacter pylori
also confer different levels of risk for the two most common forms of this cancer.