Research Projects

Pooled analysis investigating the effects of beer, wine and liquor consumption on the risk of head and neck cancers (Hayes/Purdue, NCI)

Alcohol consumption has long been recognized as a major risk factor for cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx and larynx ("head and neck cancers"), with increasing amounts of alcohol consumption consistently reported to increase head and neck cancer risk. However, it is not clear whether the risk of head and neck cancer differs for different types of alcoholic beverages.

Previous studies have reported differential estimates of relative risk with type of beverage, although the findings are inconsistent. Of the 13 studies (11 case-control, 2 cohort) that have addressed this question, 3, 3 and 5 studies reported beer, wine and liquor respectively to have the strongest association with head and neck cancer, while 2 studies found beer and liquor to have comparable effects. Some studies employed less detailed analyses than others; a failure by such studies to adequately separate out the effects of beer, wine and liquor, given their intercorrelated patterns of consumption, may have contributed to the inconsistency in findings. Interestingly, the most frequently consumed beverage in the study population often emerged as the strongest risk factor. This population-specific pattern may be due in part to greater imprecision in estimating relative risks for less common beverages due to sparse data. The failure to adjust for beverage-specific duration of consumption may also contribute tow

In order to clarify the effects of different alcoholic beverages on head and neck cancer risk, much larger studies are needed. The proposed pooled analysis of studies participating in the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology (INHANCE) Consortium offers the opportunity to investigate the effects of different alcoholic beverages at a considerably greater level of detail and statistical power than would be possible in any single study of head and neck cancer.