How Alcohol Affects Your Risk of Lung Cancer

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Drinking red wine has been touted as a disease prevention practice by some, but drinking alcoholic beverages (more than one drink per day) appears to increase the risk of breast cancer in women. 

A high intake of alcoholic beverages also appears to raise the risk of developing lung cancer, but the answer may vary depending upon gender and the type of alcohol consumed.

Ethnic background may also be a factor. A recent review of studies in the Chinese population found no association between alcohol intake and lung cancer.

Differences in Men and Women

For men, heavy consumption of beer and hard liquor has been associated with an elevated risk of lung cancer, regardless of smoking history. Of note is that this risk was greatest for men who consumed the fewest servings of fruits and vegetables. Women have not been evaluated for risk to the same degree, but one study that showed an increased risk of lung cancer in male beer drinkers actually revealed a slight reduction in risk for women.

Type of Alcohol Might Matter

The type of alcohol consumed may also be important. A review of studies to date shows an elevated risk of lung cancer in men who exceed one beer or serving of hard liquor per day, but a reduction in risk for those consuming moderate amounts of wine.


Bendetti, A. et al. Consumption of alcoholic beverages and risk of lung cancer: results from two case-control studies in Montreal, Canada. Cancer Causes and Control. 2006. 17(4):469-80.

Chao, C. Associations between beer, wine, and liquor consumption and lung cancer risk: a meta-analysis. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention. 2007. 16(11):2436-47.

Li, Y. et al. Association between alcohol consumption and cancers in the Chinese population -- a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2011. 6(4):e18776.

Rohrmann, S. et al. Ethanol Intake and Risk of Lung Cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). American Journal of Epidemiology. 2006. 164(11):1103-1114.

Shimazu. T. et al. Alcohol and the risk of lung cancer among Japanese men: data from a large-scale population-based cohort study, the JPHC study. Cancer Causes and Control. 2008. May 21. (Epub ahead of time.)