People who drink alcohol may have a lower risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) - a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, suggests a study published online by The Lancet Oncology.
Scientists know that alcohol increases the risk of several cancers, including those of the oral cavity, oesophagus, and liver. But previous studies looking at the relation between alcohol consumption and NHL have been inconsistent. Over the past few decades the incidence of NHL has risen worldwide, and in developed countries NHL is the sixth most common cancer in men and eighth most common in women.
Lindsay Morton (National Institutes of Health, Maryland, USA) and colleagues did a pooled analysis combining original data from nine studies from the USA, UK, Sweden, and Italy, involving 15000 individuals (6500 people with NHL and 8600 healthy individuals). The researchers found that the risk of NHL was about 27% lower for current drinkers than for non-drinkers, but the risk did not change with increasing alcohol consumption. The risk also did not change with the age individuals began drinking, total lifetime consumption, or beverage type. The risk did vary by NHL subtype, with the lowest risk recorded for Burkitt’s lymphoma. Compared with non-drinkers, ever drinkers had about half the risk of developing Burkitt’s lymphoma. Age, sex, family history of NHL, or history of cigarette smoking did not modify the effect of alcohol consumption on risk of NHL or NHLsubtypes.
Dr Morton and colleagues state: "Our pooled analysis of alcohol consumption and NHL risk suggests that people who drink alcoholic beverages have a lower risk of NHL than those who do not. This relation does not seem to depend on the type of alcoholic beverage consumed, but might vary by NHL subtype. Future research to confirm these findings by use of prospective data, and to determine the likely biological mechanism, is warranted."