Higher levels of alcohol consumption are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer (CRC) diagnosis before age 50, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Heavy drinking was associated with a 20% higher risk of early-onset CRC than light drinking, and moderate drinking was associated with a 9% higher risk.
Researchers uncovered these findings using data from the South Korean population in Korea’s National Health Insurance Service database. The researchers looked at the average daily alcohol consumption and risk of early-onset CRC among 5,666,576 people aged 20-49 years. The cohort included 3,362,414 men and 2,304,162 women.
Participants were classified as nondrinkers (41.6%), light drinkers (28.0%), moderate drinkers (20.4%), and heavy drinkers (9.9%). Light drinking was defined as less than 10 g of ethanol per day. Moderate drinking was defined as 10 g to less than 30 g per day for men and 10 g to less than 20 g per day for women. Heavy drinking was defined as 30 g or more per day for men and 20 g or more per day for women.
With a median follow-up of 9.1 years, 8314 early-onset CRC diagnoses were documented. In a multivariate model, heavy drinkers had an increased risk of early-onset CRC (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 1.20; 95% CI, 1.11-1.29), compared to light drinkers. Moderate drinkers also had an increased risk of early-onset CRC (aHR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.02-1.16).
“This dose-response relationship between alcohol drinking levels and the risk of early-onset CRC was observed in both men and women,” the researchers wrote. “However, the results were not statistically significant in women with moderate and heavy drinking levels.”
A subgroup analysis by tumor location revealed that increasing amounts of alcohol consumption were significantly associated with a higher risk of early-onset distal colon cancer (P =.006), rectal cancer (P <.0001), and unspecified colon cancer (P =.009) but not proximal colon cancer (P =.439).
“In addition to the drinking amount, increased drinking frequency was associated with a higher risk of early-onset CRC, and this association was also prominent for the distal colon and rectal cancers,” the researchers wrote.
Compared with not drinking, drinking 1-2 days per week increased the risk of early-onset CRC by 7%. Drinking 3-4 days per week increased the risk by 14%, and drinking 5 or more days per week increased the risk by 27%.
“These findings suggest the need for educational campaigns, alcohol control policies, and interventions to discourage alcohol consumption among young adults,” the researchers concluded. “Tailored screening approaches are needed even before age 50 years for individuals with excessive alcohol consumption.”
Jin EH, Han K, Shin CM, et al. Sex and tumor-site differences in the association of alcohol intake with the risk of early-onset colorectal cancer. J Clin Oncol. Published online June 14, 2023. doi:10.1200/JCO.22.01895
This article originally appeared on Cancer Therapy Advisor