A new study has shown that cigarette smoking is more strongly linked to head and neck cancer than alcohol consumption.
The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, showed that a quarter of head and neck cancers among non-drinkers was due to smoking.
Led by Dr. Mia Hashibe of the International Agency for Cancer Research in Lyon, the researchers examined head and neck cancer risk among smokers who never drank alcohol, and in people who drank but never used tobacco products.
They collected data from 15 case-control studies, including 10,244 head and neck cancer patients and 15,227 controls, for the purpose. About 16 per cent of the patients and 27 per cent of the controls never drank, and about 11 percent of the patients and 38 percent of the controls never smoked.
It was found that cigarette smoking was associated with an increased risk of head and neck cancer, especially cancer of the larynx, among patients who never drank alcohol. Nearly 24 per cent of cancer cases were due to smoking among patients who never drank.
The study also showed that drinking was associated with greater risk of head and neck cancers among non-smokers. Patients who drank three or more drinks per day had twice the risk of head and neck cancers as non-drinkers. Only seven per cent of head and neck cancers were due to drinking among never smokers.
"The major strength of our pooled analyses was assembly of a very large series of never users of tobacco and never drinkers among head and neck cancer patients and control subjects, which allowed us to examine head and neck cancer risks in detail and to explore differences in risks by cancer subsite, geographic region, and sex," the authors write.